Bedtime

Putting Antonia to bed tonight, she sang for an hour. Normally I feed her for ten to fifteen minutes, and she drops off. Tonight I fed her for half an hour, and she wasn’t showing any signs of stopping, so I stopped. And she sang. She sang a bye bye song, a Mamma song, a Da(dd)y song, a Yaya song, a lalalala song, and then she went back to the beginning, intermittently pausing to kiss my cheek, or pat some rhythms on her knees, or nibble my fingers, or press her cheek into mine. I wonder how long she could have continued. After an hour I said, Antonia, that’s enough, it’s sleepy time. And she tried to be quiet but the song kept coming so eventually I said, I’m going to put you in your bed and go downstairs. She seemed ok about it until I put her in there (I think she really doesn’t like the corner we’ve wedged the cot into – I’m hoping I might be able to get her to sleep there one day if we move it). Then she screamed, so I picked her up immediately. ‘Meh!’ she demanded. But I didn’t feel like it just then, so I said the meh is gone now, you drank it all up, it will come back later. And I lay next to her and sang her a song, and after ten minutes she finally fell asleep. I remembered just how exhausting it had been to get her to sleep when she was a baby. But it was a very nice song.

A good day

Sorry about the text-heavy blog lately. If I had remembered to take my camera with me today I would have taken a photo of Felix in his pram, with his matching Norwegian hat and mittens and velvety black coat, beaming at me.

This week was my fourth week back at work, and the first week I managed to work a full four days (the other weeks Felix or I or both of us had been sick). Spending so much time away from him is tough, even though I work in the room next door to him. When I leave him the image I feel in my heart is that of a small tree being ripped out of the earth, its roots dangling. I am not sure which one of us is the tree. And then when I pick him up at the end of the day, I feel a constellation springing back into life within me – stars lighting up, as though someone re-connected the electricity.

(Mind you, at 9pm, and 11pm, and 1am and 3 and 4 and 5am I am not so pleased to hear from him.)

But today was our day together, and we spent the morning in town. Felix was his sparky, charming self for the first time in weeks – I think he has been feeling quite under the weather until now. He pointed excitedly at all the children we passed; he showed the shop attendants his mittens. When we went into the wool shop, he exclaimed ‘ba! ba!’, excited to be in a shop filled with balls.

We stopped for a coffee in my favourite child-friendly cafe. He ate a fair portion of my cinnamon bun, and then played happily, first with a toy microwave and then with some tiny wooden cars. ‘Brrrrm, brrrrrm’, he said as he pushed them across the floor. Watching him, I was so happy I cried. When I drove him back up the hill, he sang ‘Mama mama mama’ all the way.

Back

Landing in Oslo and the beautiful snowy drive down here was awesome, and we were so very glad to be back. But after enthusiastically exploring all the corners we let him reach of our little house, Felix was not himself, and sat on the floor, screeching. We contemplated joining him. Arriving home to a cold house (not as cold as it could have been, as our neighbour turned the heaters up for us yesterday, but still…), with an almost one year old in tow, after being away for eight months, is not exactly easy. Especially when Norway arranges a cold snap for us and our winter clothes seem to have got lost in the post. But we’ve cranked up the heating even more, the baby is asleep, and it is slowly, slowly beginning to feel like home.

The house is the same, but we have changed. When we left, Felix was a little baby – we would perch him in his bouncer or lay him on the floor, and he took up no space at all. Now he is a little tractor, roaming everywhere, making his opinions known. We need to reshape the space for this new us. It is the heat, slowly taking hold in the air and the wooden walls, that lets me know we’ll be ok. It starts to smell like it did a year ago, when we kept the house oh so warm indeed. And I would wake in the night and carry tiny Felix out to the change table, and he would squirm and fuss as I maneuvered him out of his miniature sleeping suit. No, more precisely a year ago, I hadn’t met him yet, and it was just my taut, uncomfortable belly I was lugging around, as my due date arrived with nothing to show for it. February. Month of beginnings.

Sing me to sleep

One night a few weeks ago, Felix couldn’t sleep. After some distress (on both our parts), I worked out he must have a tummy-ache, so I gave him some panadol, nursed him to calm him down, and then lay next to him and told him a story.

Once upon a time, I said, there was a boy who lived in a stone fortress on a hill by the sea. From the fortress he could see the ships coming and going in the harbour, but they never stopped for long. In the winter the hill was glittery-cold, in spring and summer it was tangled purple and green, but in autumn, when the setting sun hit the fortress’s cobblestones, they seemed to form a golden path to somewhere he had never been. In the forest behind the hill there lived a hare with long feet and long ears, a deer with a white tail, and a wolf as grey and quiet as mist.

He looked up at me with clear and serious eyes through the darkness. ‘Bah’, he said quietly, ‘bah bah, blah blah!’ He smiled. Then he flopped his arms towards me, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

***

A couple of nights ago, he woke in great distress after only sleeping for an hour. The only way to calm him was to get him up and play with him for a while in the bright lounge room. Then I nursed him in the bedroom for a while but he was still upset, so I sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I thought I would continue with my story, but that made him cry too, so I went back to the song. I sang it over and over. He clutched a little white teddy bear, stroking its fur and staring at me. He looked like a little boy, not a baby. He looked sad and brave and alone, like he was trying with all his might to be strong. His fingers tugged at the red ribbon around the bear’s neck. And my heart ached to think of all that lies before him, everything he’ll have to find the answer to all on his own. And then he poked out his tongue and stuck his finger up my nose.

Sleep – another perspective

“awake training” for mummies

I’m not sure who wrote this but I came across it on a parenting forum, and it’s just too funny. (So, um, if you wrote it and you want to be credited, or you don’t want me to repeat it here – let me know! Also – I love you.)

Dear Fellow Babies,

OK, here’s my situation. My Mummy has had me for almost 5 months. The first few months were great – I cried, she picked me up and fed me, anytime, around the clock. Then something happened. Over the last few weeks, she has been trying to STTN (sleep thru the night). At first, I thought it was just a phase, but it is only getting worse.

I’ve talked to other babies, and it seems like its pretty common after Mummies have had us for around 5-6 months. Here’s the thing: these Mummies don’t really need to sleep. It’s just a habit. Many of them have had some 30 years to sleep – they just don’t need it anymore. So I am implementing a plan. I call it the Crybaby Shuffle.

It goes like this:

Night 1 – cry every 3 hours until you get fed. I know, it’s hard. It’s hard to see your Mummy upset over your crying. Just keep reminding yourself, it’s for her own good.

Night 2 – cry every 2 hours until you get fed.

Night 3 – every hour.

Most Mummies will start to respond more quickly after about 3 nights. Some Mummies are more alert, and may resist the change longer. These Mummies may stand in your doorway for hours, shhhh-ing. Don’t give in. I cannot stress this enough: CONSISTENCY IS KEY!! If you let her STTN (sleep through the night), just once, she will expect it every night. I know it’s hard! But she really does not need the sleep; she is just resisting the change.. If you have an especially alert Mummy, you can stop crying for about 10 minutes, just long enough for her to go back to bed and start to fall asleep. Then cry again. It WILL eventually work. My Mummy once stayed awake for 10 hours straight, so I know she can do it.

The other night, I cried every hour. You just have to decide to stick to it and just go for it. BE CONSISTENT! I cried for any reason I could come up with:

-My sleep sack tickled my foot.
-I felt a wrinkle under the sheet.
-My mobile made a shadow on the wall.
-I burped, and it tasted like rice cereal. I hadn’t eaten rice cereal since breakfast, what’s up with that?
-The dog said “ruff”. I should know. My Mummy reminds me of this about 20 times a day. LOL.
-Once I cried just because I liked how it sounded when it echoed on the monitor in the other room.
-Too hot, too cold, just right – doesn’t matter! Keep crying!!
-I had drooled so much my sheets were damp and I didn’t like it touching me.
-I decided I was sick of all the pink in my room so I cried.

It took awhile, but it worked. She fed me at 4am. Tomorrow night, my goal is 3:30am. You need to slowly shorten the interval between feedings in order to reset your Mommies’ internal clocks.

Sometimes my Mummy will call for reinforcements by sending in Daddy. Don’t worry Daddies are not set up for not needing sleep the way Mummies are. They can only handle a few pats and shhing before they declare defeat and send in the Mummy.

Also, be wary of the sleep sheep with rain noises. I like to give Mummy false hope that listening to the rain puts me to sleep sometimes I pretend to close my eyes and be asleep and then wait until I know Mummy is settling back to sleep to spring a surprise cry attack. If she doesn’t get to me fast enough I follow up with my fake cough and gag noise that always has her running to the crib. At some point I am positive she will start to realize that she really doesn’t really need sleep.

P.S. Don’t let those rubber things fool you, no matter how long you suck on them, no milk will come out.

Trust me.

Sincerely
Bub

Sleep

Sleep is on my mind. I am not nearly as tired as I was a couple of weeks ago, though I’m not getting any more sleep. But I feel so refreshed after my Seattle trip that I feel ready to help Felix learn to get to sleep without always needing to nurse. I am hoping this will lead to longer stretches of sleep during the night. I guess I can expect any changes I make to take a few weeks to have any effect, so I want to keep this up for a while.

Warning – this is going to be long and boring – of interest to me but probably nobody else!

When Felix was small he slept great. From less than a week old he understood that night time was for sleeping, so though he woke several times a night as a newborn he always went back to sleep. He only had one incident of crying in the middle of the night, not counting the night we brought him home. From about six weeks he was doing 6-8 hour stretches from 11pm, which was pretty heavenly. And then around three months, he got his vaccinations, we had a stressful trip up to Oslo to get our visas, and a week later we left for the US. His nighttime sleep has pretty much been downhill from there.

For a while he was just waking a couple of times a night, which didn’t bother me, but it got steadily worse and around five months he was waking every two hours, sometimes more. I decided to try to do something about it and got hold of some books – but then my parents came to visit, and I didn’t feel like I could implement any big changes around that time. Strangely enough, towards the end of our holiday with them he started to improve a little again on his own. So I didn’t make any changes after all. Then a few weeks ago the very frequent wakings came back in earnest. I think they were partly related to teething – the week his teeth came through he also would inexplicably stay (noisily) awake for an hour and a half in the early hours of the morning. Thankfully he’s stopped doing that.

One night in Seattle the poor mite felt a bit queasy because I’d given him some baby food I’d been carrying around all day. I felt terrible and it will never happen again! Luckily he got over it fairly quickly. But he refused to nurse, so I had to calm him down and settle him in other ways. And he managed it. So I know he can.

So in the hotel in Salt Lake City on the way home, I decided to try to settle him to sleep without nursing as much as possible. So I gave him a cuddle and a pat and he cried a little but fell asleep in six minutes flat. He woke up forty minutes later, distraught, and I gave him another cuddle and sang him a song. When we lay down together again he looked at me with such pleading, trusting eyes, and I felt terrible, but just gave him another pat and he went to sleep without complaining. I fed him when he woke at 11, and then again when he woke at 3, as Michael was in the room and had just arrived back from Norway and needed his sleep.

We’ve had two nights at home so far, and I’ve managed to settle him without nursing the first time each night, and two subsequent wakings, but when he wakes after 10 he demands a feed. Last night he woke again at 2.30 and I was just to tired to consider doing anything other than a quick feed and back to sleep. (He’d been in his crib for the early part of the night, but I’d left him in with me after feeding him at 10.30, because he seemed quite unsettled and he had got used to sleeping with me in Seattle. Besides, sleeping with him is quite nice now – he’s not so tiny that I’m terrified of squashing him all the time.) He woke again at 4.30 and 6.30. I think if he had been in his crib, though, I would have had a go at settling him without feeding, so I’ll work towards that. My goal at the moment is to feed around 11 and 4, but not at 1 or 2 or 3!

I’ve also been trying to settle him without feeds for his day naps, with some success. Today I tried it but it didn’t work, so I got him up for twenty minutes then tried again, and managed to settle him directly in his crib in less than ten minutes. He’s been asleep for an hour now. (Lately he’s been having one long nap of around an hour and a half, and one short one of half an hour.) I think a good tool is to give myself a time limit. The first night back home I tried for an hour and a half between 11.30 and 1 before I gave in and fed him, and that wasn’t fun. Twenty minutes is doable, however.

I just needed to write it all out because I’m quite preoccupied with it right now! It doesn’t seem to be extending his sleep times yet, quite the opposite – he doesn’t usually need resettling so many times before 11pm – actually he’s often quite good at sleeping from 7-11. But I want to keep trying. He’s going to need to fall asleep without me in the barnehage next year, and it would be nice if in Australia I don’t have to personally settle him for every nap – we could be more flexible then. And it feels ok to do it just now. I’m not doing it out of desperation – I actually feel quite ok at the moment – so I have reserves of patience and love to draw on. I think he can do it and I want to help him to do it in the gentlest way possible. I feel calm about it now. I don’t know if he would have been ready for this before now, but I know I wasn’t. (At the moment I really can’t come at controlled crying – the thought of it just breaks my heart, but I know it works for some people.) So we’ll see how we go. I also wanted to write this out so in a few weeks I can look back on it and see if we’ve got anywhere!

Boise day 2

Yesterday I fell in love with Boise even a little bit more when I discovered this place by the river. It’s the Log Cabin Literary Center, and they host literary events and writing camps for kids. Awesome.

It’s situated on the greenbelt, right near the art gallery and natural history museum and the zoo, and miles and miles of walking tracks by the river. As Felix is a bit young for writers’ camps yet, we headed on.

We strolled along the river for a bit and then test-drove our new picnic blanket.

Good for rolling and for reading.

It’s actually quite hard to get pictures of Felix doing anything but grinning manically at the camera, because he can be entertaining himself quite nicely but as soon as you pull the camera out he gets a huge glint in his eye and decides he wants to eat it, declaring enthusiastically ‘aha! aha! aha!’

Then we were all tuckered out.

Naptime

This may be another of those ‘see how much I can write in half an hour‘ posts. But fifteen minutes has already passed – well, twenty, actually, if you count the five minutes I waited to ensure Felix was properly asleep before moving him to the crib – so it may actually be ‘see how much I can write in ten minutes’. Which I guess is not a great deal but you never know. In any case, he could surprise us all and sleep for an hour and a half, which would be lovely.

There are so many things I have been meaning to write. I want to write about children’s picture books, how the really lovely ones are just as good as poems, or better. And I want to write about the handful of ‘how to raise you baby’ books I have read, just in case anyone is interested. And I have half a post sitting in my draft box about stone and the elements in A. S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. And there are a few more photos I want to upload from my parents’ visit. (Yes more, at the risk of boring you all, but it was such a special time and I miss them.) And I doubt I will have time to do any of that right now.

I could also be reading now, and half wish that I was. I have started Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. It is my first e-book. Michael has loaned me his ipad to see how I like it. I have decided I’m definitely going to get an e-reader. Just have to decide between a kindle and the more expensive but more versatile ipad. (I fell a bit in love with the new nook color at Barnes and Noble, but you can’t buy books on it when you are out of the US, which defeats the purpose for me.) With the ipad you can read in the dark because it’s backlit, but some people find the backlit screen annoying and straining for their eyes. Hence the test-run. Advice welcome…

It’s been a tiring week (see previous post). And yes the boy’s gorgeous laughs do make up for it but sometimes they don’t. This afternoon we sat for nearly an hour under a tree outside our apartment, and he was happy, and now he is resting. (Well, I sat. He rolled around and cooed at the wind in the leaves.)

And yes it appears I can write rather a lot in ten minutes because it’s only been eight so far.

I also wanted to write some more about what’s happening in Norway because I have been thinking about it. They’ve started releasing photos of the victims. I looked at them and ofcourse they are sweet young educated ordinary people, and it is terrible. The youngest was fourteen and five days. And there are some older people too, some my age, some my parent’s age. And really what can you write about it because it is unbearable.

When we were with my parents in Salt Lake City we went for a drive up the Big Cottonwood Canyon one evening. Felix was a bit fussy (he finds it distracting when there are people next to him in the back seat), so we decided to stop by the side of the road so I could give him a feed. When we got going again we found the road was blocked not far ahead of us. There had been an accident. We waited around for about an hour, and then got word it would be at least another three hours, because of a police investigation, so we did the two hour drive out through the back of the canyon. It turns out a drunk driver had slammed head on into a car with a couple in their sixties. The last I heard the drunk driver and the other driver were in critical conditions in hospital. We felt so terrible, and so spooked. Because there really isn’t a magic spell that ensures it’s not us who gets slammed into by drunk drivers.

One thing I was unprepared for when becoming a mother was how intolerable the thought of death would suddenly become. I was not only protective of my baby, death suddenly seemed unacceptable for anyone, anywhere. The disaster in Japan happened when Felix was a few weeks old, and I couldn’t read any of the broadcasts. One day Michael was talking to Felix, and Felix’s little mobile was whirling around above his change table, reminding Michael of the circle of life. ‘This is the circle of life’, he told Felix. ‘You are born, and you will die. One day your parents will die. One day you will die’. ‘Don’t tell him that!’ I said. Because it seemed utterly unacceptable. It made me afraid. If this beautiful creature would die, if I would die, what was the point?

I talked to Mum about it while she was here. I said, ‘sometimes things are really not ok’. ‘That’s true’, she said. ‘But also they are ok.’ (In case you haven’t noticed, which I think you have, my Mum is very wise.) I think she is right. And when I think about things being ok, I think for some reason of the earth, of dirt and  rocks and stones and gravity, firm under my feet. The way I did in this poem. I do not know why. I do not like how frail and unpredictable life is sometimes. But I very much like being alive right now. Yes I do.

That, my friends, was twenty-five minutes, and it got a bit heavy didn’t it! And if he sleeps any longer, I’m going to read my ebook.