Category: Babies

Happy 4 Months Birthday, Abigail!

Abigail is now four months old! How the time is flying… 🙁

She weighs 16.2 lbs, and is still wearing her 3-6 month size clothes, but I am planning to move her up to 6-9 months soon because her pants are all pretty tight and short. She still has beautiful blue eyes. She hasn’t grown any more hair since being born, and in fact she has lost some! She has a little bald patch on the back of her head, which is common for babies with hair.

She does not sleep through the night anymore, even though she did for a short time when she was younger. Now she wakes up about three to four times per night to nurse. She’s also become a pretty wiggly sleeper, which is somewhat annoying, but I wouldn’t give up snuggling with her at night for anything! She loves to sleep on her belly, and will almost always roll over to that position while sleeping, if she fell asleep on her back. She still loves sucking her thumb, and sometimes her whole hand.

She isn’t on a nap schedule yet, but she tends to take one or two long naps each day (a couple of hours), along with several more short ones (10 to 20 minutes).

She’s becoming more aware of her surroundings and showing interest in grabbing objects she sees. She’s a notorious hair-and-skin-grabber. She wants to be held a lot more often now, but she still has times where she’s content to just sit in her bouncy seat or lay in her playpen or on her playmat. She can really bounce herself in that bouncy seat, and seems to love it! She is generally content, easy to please, and easy to make smile and giggle. She giggles the most at Cody. He can make her laugh by doing nothing at all, just looking at her or sometimes just making a silly noise. They seem to love each other very much, which is the sweetest thing ever.

At four months, Abigail is able to roll over onto her belly, though she never rolls back. Whether that’s because she doesn’t want to or hasn’t figured it out yet is uncertain. She’s more stable when we hold her in a supported sitting position or a standing position, but she still has a ways to go until she’ll be sitting up on her own.

She’s a great nurser still, of course, and I suspect she might be a better food-eater than Cody was when the time comes because she always seems to stare at our food. But we’ll see! So far she doesn’t have any of her teeth yet, but she seems to be teething still on and off. Right now, we’re battling a diaper rash, an issue we never had with Cody. It’s funny how different these two are!

So that’s pretty much it. Not much has changed with her in the last month, but she’s still growing steadily and she’s a happy, healthy girl.

Happy 3 Months Birthday, Abigail!

On Monday, Abigail turned three months old. Here’s what’s new with her in the past month:

Abigail now weighs 15 lbs. She is still wearing 3-6 month size clothing. She nurses more frequently now, I suspect due to teething pain. For several weeks, she was sleeping through the night, but recently has been waking up two times per night to nurse. I discovered that she sleeps better when she has her own bed, so I moved myself out of the twin bed we were sharing, and I’ve been sleeping with Cory and Cody in our king bed instead (the beds are pushed up next to each other, so she’s still close by).

She doesn’t have a nap schedule yet, but she takes one to three long naps during the day. On bad teething days, her naps are short and she mostly wants to sleep while nursing. In general, she has a lot of awake time now, and spends it contently laying in her playpen, sitting in her high chair or floor seat, laying on her playmat or on the couch next to us, or of course being held. She prefers to be held facing out, just like Cody did, and we wear her facing out in the ergobaby carrier frequently.

We haven’t tried giving her a bottle since she was a newborn, but she never really took to it then. The same goes for pacifiers. She loves to suck on her thumb, or sometimes her other fingers or her whole hand.

She cries more often now, but usually only when she wants to be held or nursed. Rarely, we are unable to calm her for a few minutes, but generally she’s easy to calm. When teething isn’t bothering her, she’s a very content and happy girl. She smiles often and giggles at us, Cody, and the dogs. She loves peek-a-boo, and when Cody “plays” with her. Speaking of which, Cody is so great with her! He’s very sweet and loves to give her attention. Abigail is very vocal and makes a lot of cooing noises when she’s happy. Oh, and she loves music!

Abigail can hold her head up very high and seemingly indefinitely while on her tummy. She props herself up on her elbows a bit, too. She is able to roll from her back to her tummy now, but hasn’t quite figured out how to get her arm out from under her. She is able to wiggle around enough to rotate 180 degrees or more while on her back.

I would consider her to be an easy baby still, though teething has made her more “normal” in terms of being more demanding. Because we decided to get a puppy last week, this is fairly bad timing, and day-to-day life is less peaceful than it was. Still, puppyhood doesn’t last forever and neither does teething! And most days, there are still several of peaceful times when baby and puppy are both sleeping (like right now, allowing me to write this post!)


 

Happy Two Months Birthday, Abigail!

On Saturday, Abigail turned two months old. It has really flown by even faster this time around! That’s probably because Cody is still keeping me busy. 😉

Abby has been an easy baby so far. She sleeps a lot, and in long stretches. I would estimate she sleeps about 14-16 hours per 24 hour period. At night, she wakes about two times to nurse, and usually a couple of other times just to wiggle around for a few minutes. Getting her to sleep at bedtime has been easy lately; I nurse her in our rocking chair, then bring her into bed and turn on the white noise and nurse her some more if she wants. She’s fallen asleep like that with no problems for the past few weeks.

Unlike Cody when he was a baby, she doesn’t nurse every time I offer. She tends to nurse less frequently than he did in general, and the sessions are also shorter. Still, she’s been gaining weight really well, and currently weighs just over 13 lbs, which is in the 90th percentile. She’s a chunker! In fact, she’s wearing size 3-6 month clothing now, as she grew out of her newborn and 0-3 month clothes very quickly.

Although she spends a lot of her time sleeping, she also has long periods of being awake and alert now. She is becoming quite vocal, and likes to have “cooing conversations” with us. She’s giggled a handful of times, but it’s still rare enough to be exciting when she does it. She smiles frequently, sometimes in reaction to people and other times for secret reasons only babies know.

As for crying, she doesn’t do much of it. She usually gives us many warnings before starting to cry. She will start “shouting” at us, with more frequent and louder noises, until we pick her up. The only times she cries are when we put her in her carseat, and the rare times when she’s truly upset because she wants to be held or nurse. She’s never cried for more than a minute, and usually it’s only for a few seconds. Of course, we spend a lot of time holding her and that helps keep her happy. But she’s also often content to lay in her playpen or her mat on the floor, or sit in her swing, for half an hour or so when we need to get things done.

Cory wears her in the ergobaby often, and she does well with that. She doesn’t like it when I wear her as much, I suspect because being so close to my chest makes her want to nurse. She often starts rooting around and getting fussy when I wear her, unless she’s really tired and falls asleep. But usually I can wear her to take Cody to the park and she’s content for a little while. Around the house, I typically prefer to just hold her and she seems to like that better.

Abigail took a bottle one time, but several other attempts have been rejected. She hasn’t taken to a pacifier either, though we haven’t tried very hard with that. She likes to suck on her hand, so a pacifier seems unnecessary.

She can now hold her head up, and she can push up a bit on her arms when she’s on her tummy. She’s close to rolling, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet. She will use her legs to stand now when we hold her upright, but she still needs a lot of support because she’s pretty floppy.

Cody has done wonderfully with her so far, and the transition has been very smooth. He is great at being gentle with her, and he likes to stroke her arms and head and tell me that he loves her. It’s super sweet! He’s a good big brother. 🙂

That’s about it! Life with two littles has been more challenging, but so far it’s not as hard as I thought. Probably because Abby is such an easy baby! Either way, we’re blessed.

Abigail’s Birth Story

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. It contains details about the birth process and my personal experience, which some people may not be comfortable reading. If this is you, please don’t read it! Otherwise, continue. 🙂

My birthing with Abigail was quite a journey. I expected to have her early, but ended up giving birth at exactly 41 weeks of pregnancy, longer than I went with Cody. The time I spent waiting at the end was very difficult emotionally, and as irrational as it was, I truly felt at times that I’d never have her. Of course, I did have her in God’s timing. Now that she’s here I am overjoyed!

Abigail MarlyAnne Westropp was born on Labor Day, Monday, September 4th, 2017 at 3:16 PM. She was born at home, completely unmedicated. She weighed 7 lbs and 12 oz and was 20 ¼ inches long at birth. Here is how it all happened.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, I began to experience more frequent warm up pressure waves than I’d previously been having. I also passed a small amount of blood, which seemed to be the beginning of my bloody show. Over the next several weeks, I continued to experience more warm up waves, with some periods of prodromal waves. There were many times I thought my birthing time was beginning, but they all were false alarms. At 38 weeks, I began trying many natural methods of encouraging birthing to begin. I tried walking, sex, certain foods, and hypnosis. At 40 weeks, I began trying some more aggressive natural methods of induction, including nipple stimulation and acupressure.

Finally at 40 weeks and 5 days, on September 2nd, I tried the most aggressive option so far and had my midwife sweep my membranes, which led to my full bloody show. That night, I had a good pressure wave pattern for several hours, and was very hopeful, but then it faded. The next afternoon, I had an appointment with my doula to try more natural induction techniques. I was optimistic, since she’s never had a client who this appointment didn’t work for. We tried many things, but after over 5 hours, we still had not established a good pressure wave pattern, and we decided to call it a night. My doula, Lynsey, left my house around 10:30 PM, and I went to bed with my hypnosis track playing as usual. I felt discouraged and resigned when I went to bed.

At about 1 AM that night, on September 4th, I woke up because of strong waves I was feeling. I began timing them, while listening to a hypnosis track. They continued to be strong, about 40 seconds to a minute long, and between 3 to 7 minutes apart. After an hour, I called my midwife, Alicia, and we decided it was time for her to come over. She arrived around 3 AM, and I continued to listen to my hypnosis tracks and mellow worship music while using my hypnosis tools.

I’d already woken up Cory around 2 to tell him what was going on, and encouraged him to get more sleep. By 4, I was ready for him to start actively supporting me, so I woke him up. I also called Lynsey at this time. Shortly after, I decided that I wanted to move to the bedroom and start using my birth pool, so we tried to move our sleeping son Cody to the guest bedroom. He woke up and wouldn’t go back to sleep, so we called Cory’s mom, Marsha, to come take care of him. While she drove out, we set up the birth pool and I had some time with Cody in the pool. He helped me decorate the pool with submersible orange lights, which I’d chosen to help me envision my Hypnobabies’ orange hypno-anesthesia.

Around 6 AM, Marsha arrived. Although the timing is a blur, I know I spent this active birthing time moving between my pool, the bed, and my chair, while remaining in hypnosis and listening to my tracks out loud, and hearing birth prompts from Cory. At some point, my midwife’s assistant arrived, another midwife I’d met years ago named Jennifer. The midwives offered gentle support and otherwise rested and stayed unobtrusive. Cody was happy and busy with Marsha, and Cory stayed with me almost constantly. I started to have more bloody show during that time.

Around 10 AM, Alicia offered to check my dilation, and I agreed. Lynsey arrived while that was happening. To my great surprise and joy, Alicia said she couldn’t feel any cervix– meaning, I was completely dilated and effaced. I cried happy tears and hugged Cory and Lynsey, because I knew then that Abigail would be coming soon.

Alicia was able to feel that baby was asynclitic, and not quite fully engaged as a result, so we tried some belly sifting. From that point on, I spent time resting between waves on the couch or bed, and trying different positions in the pool. My support team kept me constantly hydrated, nourished me with light snacks, and reminded me to use the bathroom. Of course, they also kept hypnosis tracks playing for me and read birth prompts.

My pressure waves throughout this entire time were strong, and close together. I began to feel some exhaustion after the first few hours, and then began feeling a lot of back discomfort. Hours after being completely dilated, I still had not started to feel any pushing urges, and my emotional state started to struggle to remain peaceful. I began thinking that I couldn’t go on much longer.

Finally at about 2 PM, I broke down. Sitting in my pool, I told my team I couldn’t do it anymore, in tears. They rallied around me. They told me I was doing it, and they were going to help me. They told me it was time to start pushing and get the baby out. I said it hurt too much, and they told me I could do it, and to use my hypnosis. Finally, their encouragement broke through and I felt a sense of resolve, that I could do it and I would. I told Jesus that I needed his help.

On the next wave, I started pushing. At first, it increased the discomfort to be almost unbearable, but after just a second, it lifted. I took as deep of breaths as I could and then pushed while making loud, low, opening sounds. Sometimes I became very loud! Then I tried pushing after taking a deep breath, using the breath to bear down, and pushing several times during each wave. My lower back was in pain during my waves now, so Lynsey massaged it while I pushed. In between waves, I rested and took deep breaths, breathing oxygen to baby while my midwives monitored her heart rate. I moved between several different positions for pushing. Sometimes I squatted and leaned back against the wall of the pool. Other times I leaned forward on the pool wall, or simply went on hands and knees. I also tried Lynsey’s suggestion of squatting and pulling hard on a rebozo (scarf) that Cory held. I stayed in the pool the whole time. Cody and Marsha came in at some point to witness the process.

I pushed for a little over an hour, before I started crowning. I reached down and felt baby’s soft head and her silky hair. My midwives guided me to push more gently at this point, to allow myself to stretch naturally, and I did. I felt some burning, but it didn’t hurt. I told myself to stretch, and I did. Baby’s head came out into my hand, and I held her head, waiting for the rest of her to slip out. After what felt like only a few moments, but was apparently six minutes, suddenly there was some urgency I was vaguely aware of.

Everything snapped into motion as Alicia said she wanted me out of the pool, now, and my team basically lifted and dragged me out, straight to the bed on my hands and knees. Cory told me everything was fine. I was told to stop pushing. In my head, I had one thought, that Abigail needed to be okay. I was maneuvered into a runner’s squat position, and my midwives were doing things I wasn’t aware of, trying to ease baby out. There was no pain, just waiting, until finally they told me to push as hard as I could. I did and Abigail was born, finally, and I flipped onto my back and held her on my chest. She didn’t cry right away, and I rubbed her gently and talked to her until finally, she let out her first tiny cry. Her cord was short, so I couldn’t move her much, but I held her and kissed her warm wet head. She started looking for the breast quickly, and with just a little guidance she latched on like a pro.

Later, I learned that Abigail was having a hard time coming out because she had her hands up under her chin. The midwives had to reach in and push her hands down to allow her to come out. Although that may sound painful, I didn’t feel it. Through all of that, I only had a small tear that barely required two stitches. Although her birth was somewhat traumatic, both she and I came through it easily, thanks to my incredible and competent birth team.

After Abigail was born, we waited a short time for my placenta to be born. Unfortunately, I started to hemorrhage both before and after birthing the placenta, meaning I was bleeding too much. My midwives gave me a shot of pitocin and massaged my uterus, all with me still in hypnosis and using my tools for comfort. I continued to nurse Abigail, which is helpful for controlling bleeding after birth. After a few minutes, my bleeding had slowed but not completely stopped, so I was given another shot of pitocin. Finally, the bleeding stopped, and we rested.

After that final drama, things were calm. Abigail had her newborn exam next to me while Jennifer cleaned me up. Then we nursed some more, and Cory and I were left alone to bond with baby while the house was cleaned up a bit. Cody met his baby sister, a fascinating and strange creature to him. I cried happy tears again, thanking God for our daughter and sitting in awe of how lucky we are to have two beautiful children. Cory held Abigail and we took some photos.

After a little while, we decided it was time to cut the cord. It was still attaching Abigail to the placenta, which was lying wrapped up nearby. We were happy that we’d allowed every possible drop of blood to flow into baby before cutting the cord, but we were ready to have more mobility for Cory to hold her. He clamped and cut the cord himself. Later, I was stitched up while happily nursing Abby, and she got her vitamin K shot while still nursing. She let go to cry a two-second protest before going back to the breast.

After all was settled, my birth team said goodbye and left. I nestled happily in my bed with my baby girl, and my husband and son close by. Could there be anything better?

There are so many things I’m thankful for, looking back at this experience. First and foremost, a happy and healthy baby and mama, which is always the main goal. I’m also thankful for my midwives, who knew exactly what to do in a potentially scary situation. They saved our lives, really. I’m thankful for my doula, who supported me so well both physically and emotionally. She also managed to take photos and videos throughout my entire birthing process, which I can now treasure forever. My amazing husband and birth partner, Cory, was a superhero. He pushed himself physically to support me through his own exhaustion. He stayed calm always, told me frequently how I was doing such a great job, gave me hypnosis cues, and stayed by my side throughout the birth of our child. All together, my team was a formidable force. They held me up in so many ways when I was sure I could not do it. With them, I could. I’m thankful for Hypnobabies, without which I can only imagine the difficulty I would have had giving birth. Some women have easy births, but I apparently do not. And I did not have a painless birth, either, but with Hypnobabies, I was able to have a more easy and comfortable experience, and succeed in my dream of having a natural birth at home.

Most of all, I’m thankful to God. He kept me and Abigail safe. Jesus held me during the hardest parts of my birthing, and without his presence I can’t imagine how I would have coped. He is my savior, not only for eternity, but for my life right now. He enabled me with strength I would not have had on my own. And he blessed me and Cory with such an unbelievable gift, our precious baby girl, not to mention our son almost three years ago. We are so very blessed, for God is good.

I am so very relieved, proud, and satisfied with my birth experience. Knowing that I did this makes me feel empowered to do anything. I feel very lucky to have experienced both a happy hospital birth with Cody and now a completely natural home birth with Abigail. It’s wonderful experience to have as a birth educator as well! How very blessed I’ve been. <3

Welcome to the world, little Abigail. You are so very precious.

The {Bedtime} Struggle Is Real

bedtime-struggle

I’ve mentioned many times that my family is a co-sleeping one. We love sharing our bed with our precious son, and couldn’t imagine sleeping in a separate room from him. Those snuggles, special memories, and the closeness and security we all feel being together are priceless. There are moments we’ve been able to enjoy that would never have happened if we weren’t co-sleepers, like hearing Cody’s first laugh, in his sleep in the middle of the night when he was two months old. Being pat gently on the face and greeted, “hi mama,” first thing in the morning is another thing I treasure.

Plus, when you’re breastfeeding on-demand with a high-need baby, co-sleeping is really the only way to go. Rolling over to nurse and falling back asleep is so much better than trudging down the hall, nursing in a chair, re-settling the baby in the crib, and then dragging yourself back to bed. Co-sleeping has allowed me to be an active nighttime parent without sacrificing sleep any more than necessary. And even though my sleep has been interrupted every night for more than the past two years, it has still been adequate and I have never felt sleep-deprived. It may not be for everyone, but co-sleeping is definitely for us!

Yet one thing I have sometimes felt misled about when it comes to co-sleeping is the idea that doing so will lessen bedtime battles and bedtime anxiety. The idea is that since your child knows you will be with them throughout the night, they don’t fight bedtime as much as other kids who are dreading the long period of separation. Yet for us, bedtime has been an increasingly challenging routine.

It started with Cody occasionally having a hard time falling asleep, or seeming “wired” at bedtime. Then it became a common situation to spend up to an hour trying to put him to sleep. As attachment parents, we don’t believe in sleep training, and we have always helped Cody go to sleep by nursing, rocking, and snuggling in bed. But we came to a point where none of that was working. We’d already been using white noise, blackout curtains, and a consistent bedtime routine. We started eliminating any screen time within a couple of hours of bedtime. We tried putting him to bed earlier, or later, or at a more consistent time. Nothing seemed to help! Finally, we tried giving him a very small dose of melatonin on nights when he was taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep. When that became almost every night for about two weeks, we finally decided that something had to change. We were not comfortable relying on drugs to get him to sleep!

I did some research, weeded through the sleep-training sales pitches, and finally came across an article written by a fellow attachment parent and co-sleeper, describing exactly my problem. The solution was simple, but kind of sucked: making your bedtime the same as your child’s. At first I was resistant. Cory and I have really enjoyed our hour or two of alone time to relax together at night. We also often used some of that time to catch up on chores. Losing it was not an appealing idea. Yet as I read this article, I realized the truth of the matter, which was that many nights we weren’t getting that time anymore anyway. At this point, we were spending an hour or more putting Cody to bed, and then pushing our bedtime out further and further just to have 45 minutes or less of time to ourselves. It was inefficient, stressful, and pointless.

We knew that we had two realistic choices. We could sleep train our toddler, going against our instincts as parents and undermining the strong attachment and sense of security we have built with Cody since his birth. Or, we could make another sacrifice on this parenting journey, and start going to sleep with him to put an end to his bedtime anxiety.

Attachment parenting is many things, but easy and convenient are not the words I would use. And you know what? That’s okay. Parenting shouldn’t be easy or convenient. Parenting should be about sacrifice. It’s about giving everything you have and are to raise your children to be the best they can be. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always comfortable. But boy, is it worth it. That love… it’s like nothing else.

So we followed the way of love, and gave up our alone time to help Cody have a better bedtime. It has been so much easier already. The bonus is that even though we don’t have that alone time, we do get more sleep, which I desperately need now that I’m pregnant. Plus, Cory can get up earlier in the morning and have time to himself for working on his personal projects, which works out really well considering the morning is his most productive time of day. I still get my alone time every day during his nap, which has been really good for a long time! I think it’s interesting that he has no issues going down for naps (except on the days when he randomly decides to skip it), but bedtime has been so difficult. This kid likes to keep things interesting!

Anyway, Cory and I still have time alone on the weekends during Cody’s naps, and we allow ourselves TV time in the evening even with Cody around. He’s going to be a very “cultured” child, you could say. 😉 There may be a time when we decide that “adult” TV isn’t appropriate for him, but for now, we’re okay with him being exposed to the stuff we watch. We tend to be fairly protective over what images and words and themes go into our minds anyway. But that’s a topic for another post.

As far as bedtime goes, it has been stress-free since we made the change. He still doesn’t go to sleep very quickly yet, but at least now we’re using that time to fall asleep ourselves, rather than laying awake and waiting for him to fall asleep. And I can say one thing for sure; I have been enjoying the extra sleep for myself.

We’re Expecting!

pregnancy-announcement

Happy New Year, readers!

I hope you and your family have an excellent year full of joy, growth, and life at its fullest.

This year is going to be an exciting one for my family, because we’re expecting our second baby in August!

At just six weeks pregnant, it’s amazing to know that our little baby already has a heart that’s beating and the beginnings of arms, legs, and facial features. How unbelievable is the miracle of life? God’s creative power never ceases to amaze me. We can’t wait to welcome our second babe into the world. <3

What I’m Into in December

december-char

December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛

Terrible Terrible Tantrums

tantrums

Ah, the dreaded tantrum. We’ve all seen one. Many of us have judged a few parents for their inability to control their toddler’s public fits. Many of us have been those parents, unable to stop the embarrassing displays of unrestrained fury from our youngest family members. It’s as if your toddler having a public meltdown is a glaring sign of failure as a parent. But why?

I have learned through my studies in child development and now my actual experience that tantrums are a very normal part of development. Contrary to popular belief, tantrums are not “bad behavior.” Having an emotional meltdown is not misbehavior—it’s part of being human. Are tantrums unpleasant, embarrassing, and unwanted? Why yes. But again—they aren’t misbehavior.

The reality is that toddlers have a lot of big emotions that they don’t know how to handle. If we, as adults, can’t always handle our emotions maturely, then it really isn’t reasonable to expect toddlers to do so. It would be much better for everyone if we all realized that tantrums are normal, and not a reflection of bad parenting. But when a toddler is crying on the floor, kicking and screaming, what should a parent (or caregiver) do?

Some people lecture or scold the child. “Get off the floor right now! You stop that, or you’ll have a time-out.” Or, even better, “Stop crying!” Sometimes, these scoldings are even accompanied by spankings, or other punitive measures. I always find myself wondering, why? They aren’t hurting anybody (if they are, they can be restrained with compassion). They’re just expressing their emotions the only way they know how. And when did it become acceptable to respond to another person’s tears and pain by yelling at them to stop crying, or worse, by hitting them? Apparently, only with toddlers.

Other parents, desperate to end the drama, concede to the demands of their little tyrant. This isn’t really a good long-range plan either. It teaches kids that they can get what they want by screaming, crying, and making a scene. That’s no good either!

What I’ve found to be a respectful, yet effective middle ground is considering the reason behind the tantrum, and responding accordingly without compromising your dignity, or the child’s. When a toddler is throwing a fit because of separation anxiety, I offer comfort. I may gently rub their back, hold them, or offer comforting words. I also respect their right to reject any physical comfort. I offer my presence, and my patience while they express their pain and, hopefully, eventually, calm down.

If a toddler is throwing a tantrum over not getting their way, I may offer my empathy, ignore it, or try using distraction. Remember, even adults feel upset when they don’t get their way! If a toddler is throwing a tantrum for an unknown reason (as mine often does), I offer comfort, and if rejected, I ignore it or, again, try using distraction. When I simply don’t have the energy to deal with it calmly, I ignore it.

I recognize that there may be reasons I don’t know about for the emotional outburst—teething pain, boredom, frustration, and so on. As such, I try to never react to a tantrum with anger or an attempt to control it. The only time I would step in to exert control would be to prevent a child from injuring himself or others, which can be accomplished with a hug-hold (holding the child around the torso and over the arms from behind).

The key, for me, to being peaceful in the face of tantrums is realizing that I cannot control the actions of the child, whether it’s my child or somebody else’s who I’m caring for. I can only control my own actions, and my reactions. I can only guide the child’s choices to the extent they will allow me to, and enforce necessary limits within my power. Stopping a toddler from having a tantrum is not necessary, or always possible. Reacting to it calmly and reasonably is both.

The Fear of the Cry

Being around a crying baby is stressful. As a parent, being around your own crying baby is, at least to me, extra stressful. The noise is designed to be attention-grabbing—simultaneously grating and pity-inducing. It’s just annoying enough for us to be motivated to act, yet sad enough that we’re inspired to be gentle and loving as we take care of whatever the crying baby needs. Crying is a well-designed behavior for babies to be able to express themselves to their caregivers, so that we know when to feed them, change them, play with them, hold them, and help them go to sleep.

Crying may have been designed primarily to allow babies to express their needs, but sometimes, especially as a baby grows older, crying can be about expressing other things as well. Older babies and pre-verbal toddlers often cry to express emotions such as frustration, anger, and of course sadness. Even young babies cry for no obvious reason at times. Sometimes babies cry even when their physical and emotional needs have all been met, and no attempts to comfort them will help. Sometimes toddlers just seem to feel cranky, and there is nothing that can be done to change their mood. In times like these, the crying can feel like an unanswerable problem that you are being demanded to solve.

Cody is an excellent example of this. He cries and whines a lot, and often there is nothing I can do to make it stop. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea why he’s even crying (and I suspect neither does he), and all I can do is sit with him in my lap while he works through it.

I’ve realized lately that I have a subconscious “fear” of Cody crying. Or, more accurately, I feel that I always have to “fix it” when he cries. Being his mom is extra-stressful because he’s not an easy, content baby. I am constantly on alert as to what might upset him next. I try to keep him happy but I often fail, simply because of his personality. The resulting stress, frustration, and exhaustion is what I imagine it would feel like to work at a job where your boss is constantly criticizing you, day in and day out.

Of course, Cody is not my boss, even though it can feel like it sometimes. As the parent, I am the boss, and I’m confident in that role. Yet part of being a parent means putting your child’s needs above your own. Attachment parenting in particular values nurturing, understanding, and compassionate treatment of one’s children. As an attachment parent, I strive to build a relationship with my son of mutual respect, trust, and love. Because Cory and I don’t simply do whatever we want with no regard to what our child wants, it does demand more from us as parents. I see Cody’s feelings as valid, and I won’t deny him comfort or closeness, which are emotional needs. I don’t expect him to act like an adult, or to be convenient for me—his only job right now is to learn and grow. These are important principles to me, as a parent.

The problem is when I assume that because of these values, it is my job to fix it any time Cody cries. Yes, his feelings are valid and yes, it is my job to meet his needs, including emotional ones. But that doesn’t mean that my goal should be to keep him from crying. In fact, allowing him to express himself, sometimes through crying, is one way that I can support his emotional needs.

When Cody becomes frustrated with something, I can try to help him figure out the problem or suggest a different activity. When he’s angry or sad because of a limit that we enforce, I can offer empathy and perhaps a distraction. When he’s whining, I can ignore it so that he learns to express himself in a more effective, respectful, and less annoying way. And when he’s crying simply because he feels sad (and he’s not hungry, thirsty, tired, bored, in need of a diaper change, or having pain or discomfort) then I can hold him and give him comfort until he feels better. It’s okay for him to cry. It’s my job to be there for him in those times, not to fix it, but just to love him.

One last thing I want to emphasize is that crying is not a misbehavior. It makes me so sad and frustrated when I see parents or caregivers chastising a child for crying. (It’s even worse when children are scolded or told to “be good and stop crying” when they are crying as a result of separation anxiety. Separation from parents can be very frightening and upsetting for young children. They aren’t being bad for feeling sad!) Often children have no other way to express their feelings because they haven’t developed the ability to use their words effectively yet. And even when they have, crying is still a normal way of expressing emotion. Children are people, too, and they have every right to feel whatever they feel, whether that’s sadness or anger or frustration or confusion or anything else. It’s not our place to judge whether their feelings are justified—that helps nobody. Instead, the focus should be on accepting and responding appropriately to feelings at any age. Emotion is not something to fear, be ashamed of, fix, or avoid. It’s a part of who we are, as humans, and we can all do better in learning to express and respond to feelings.

I’m getting better every day at not fearing the cry. But I don’t want to get to the point where I habitually ignore it either. Instead, I try to respond by taking action when appropriate, and realize that sometimes there’s nothing to do but just be there to listen, and that’s okay too.

Stevie the TV is My Friend

First of all, if you know where “Stevie the TV” comes from, then you just might be as much of a Friends fan as I am. And if you are, then you may also understand my love for TV in general. But if not, then just know this—I really, really like TV. I love the stories and the characters and the overall entertainment value that comes from television (I also love reading and watching movies, for the same reasons).

At the same time, before Cody was born, I had some very clear ideas in mind about what I wanted for my kids as far as media exposure goes. I’ve never liked the idea of the two-year-old-playing-games-on-the-ipad phenomenon. I don’t think it’s good for older children and teenagers to spend hours upon hours each day playing video games or messing around on the computer. And even though I love TV myself, I don’t really believe that it can be healthy for children to spend hours a day watching it. Cory and I both want to make sure that our kids are active participants in the real world—not screen-obsessed like most kids seem to be these days.

That’s still an important goal to me, but since Cody was born, I’ve had to find a middle ground between what I originally planned and what actually works for my day-to-day life. Originally, I’d planned to have a strict rule about “no screens” until our kids were two years old. But once Cody turned about two months old, he started to sleep less and spend more time being awake and alert, yet he wasn’t content to lay on his back and play by himself for any reasonable amount of time. I started to spend most of my time sitting or standing around holding him, and frankly, I quickly became extremely bored. Finally, one day, I turned on the TV in a desperate attempt to entertain myself. Ever since then, Cody has been receiving a top-notch education at Friends University, where he’s minoring in psychology through the Pretty Little Liars program and enjoying the state-of-the-art music program, The Voice, in his spare time. Recently, he’s also shown interest in the How I Met Your Mother course of study. This kid is going to be a TV expert before we know it!

In all seriousness, though, I have struggled with our decisions in this area. The experts all seem to agree that TV should be avoided for children under age two. Even though Cody seems to be developing perfectly and hitting all of his milestones, I still worry that somehow we’re doing irreparable damage to his little brain by letting him watch TV with us. It’s one of those things that I see many parents doing, yet doctors and articles and baby books still warn me not to do. And since I tend to question everything I’m told, I decided to look a little deeper into the reasons behind these warnings. Is TV really so bad for kids?

I discovered that basically, TV is considered to be bad for young children because it takes time away from activities that are very important to their development. Playing, interacting socially, and exploring the world are all vital activities that babies and young children should be spending most of their awake-time doing. Children’s language development can be particularly affected by having insufficient verbal interaction with people around them—reading and talking to your baby is really important! It’s also been “proven” that so-called educational TV programs designed for children have no positive benefits to their development. So basically, sitting your child in front of the TV to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse doesn’t actually count as positive development time.

Still, I have to wonder if TV is really all that harmful for children who also spend a lot of time each day getting the stimulation they need. I can’t help but feel that children’s shows could be a very useful tool to keep little ones entertained for short periods of time, allowing parents to get a few vital things done around the house (always within viewing distance of the child, of course). And in my case, TV helps me keep my sanity when I’m losing my mind with boredom, and gives me a mental break when I really need it. Most of the time, Cody is happy to just be held while I stand and sway, watching an episode of one of my favorite shows. In fact, sometimes when he’s upset no matter what I try to do with him, holding him while I watch TV is the only thing that works.

The reality is that Cody spends a lot of time each day playing and discovering his world. We read to him every day and talk to him constantly. Each day he spends time playing independently while we do chores, and we spend time sitting on the floor and playing with him. We go on walks and errands, exposing him to sights and sounds out in the world. But even with all of that, there is still so much time in the day, and we do spend some of it watching TV with him. But you know what? I think that’s okay.

In a perfect world, I would have endless patience and Cody would play happily with his toys and listen while I read books to him all day long, and we would follow a carefully regimented yet flexible schedule of developmental activities. But this is not a perfect world, and the truth is that often, I just need a little Friends in my day. For the time being, Cody allows me to enjoy this small pleasure, and until he no longer cooperates with me on this, I plan to continue enjoying it. It’s still important to me to make sure that Cody has plenty of stimulating activities in his day, and TV is something that we save for after all of the other activities, or for short breaks in between them. Plus, when we watch it with him, we see it for what it is—entertainment for us, distracting and appeasing for Cody, but not educational or helpful for his development. But personally, I think it’s okay to have some time like that in our day. Not every moment has to be a learning opportunity.