Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Pendulum of Motherhood

I've been asked by many people now what motherhood is like and if I'm just so happy and in love with it. 

Honestly, my answer starts with a big sigh, a half-smile, and I respond with something along the lines of "it's good, but..." and then I talk about the latest frustration or struggle. 

Most days there is a swinging pendulum of feelings. One moment, I'm overjoyed at the giggles and squeals I get out of Ava when we sing and dance, and the next thing I know, I'm feeling frustrated because she's fighting naptime and I have no idea why. And then after she wakes up from her 30 minute rest, she's kicking and smiling at me from the changing table. 

Highs and lows happen daily. Repeatedly. 

Ava has never been much of a crier, and for that I thank my lucky stars. She usually just has quiet whine and the occasional crying fit when she wants out of the car seat/is hungry and we aren't home yet. 

I'm currently in the process of attempting to wean her of the swaddle. This is my second attempt. She can roll from her belly to back, although she doesn't do it very often yet. She's also showing signs of being able to roll from her back to stomach soon. And once she does that, we have no choice but to get rid of the swaddle. It's so unfair that something so soothing to her has to be taken away! 

She was able to go both arms out overnight the other night. She woke 4 times, though...1,3,4, and 6:30! Each time she was hungry. I've read not to do any kind of sleep training during teething, illness, or growth spurt, but I feel like we are never going to get a clean shot since she always seems to be teething. And growing! So I decided, aw heck...she's waking a lot at night anyway, so let's just try both arms out and see how it goes! Even though she woke a lot, I was encouraged that she was able to sleep without fussing with her arms out. 

Her first nap of the day went well, too. I was able to swaddle her arms out, AND lay her in her crib awake after a few minutes of rocking. After 20 minutes of quietly laying in her crib, I had to go and help her get sleepy enough to fall asleep...but she did! She is normally rocked to sleep and then placed in her crib. So I was feeling pretty great! I thought cold turkey might work for her. 

But her next nap was nightmarish. I swaddled her arms out and began to rock her, and she immediately started crying. It's normal for her to fuss a bit before falling asleep, but this was full-blown crying. She's attempting to suck her thumb, but she's not very good at it yet...especially knowing what to do with her other 4 fingers. So they usually end up poking her in her eyes or grabbing her cheeks. She can't yet get her thumb in her mouth on the first try. So I thought, ok, she's frustrated that she can't get her thumb right. She'd get it in her mouth, stop crying and close her eyes. Then she'd pull it out in a few second and cry. And cry. Then she'd find her thumb and the cycle would repeat. 

This went on for about 10 minutes with no progress when I decided to swaddle her arms back in. That didn't help; she clearly still wanted her arms out.

Great.

So now we are stuck in between being swaddled and not. She wants to be out of it, I can tell, although she is still comforted by it, but she hasn't quite figured out what to do with her arms. 

She kept opening her mouth and crying like she wanted her thumb. I was so tempted to reach for that paci and see if that helped, but I didn't want her to have another crutch that I would later have to wean as well. She took her paci as a newborn, but she doesn't take it anymore. I am trying to teach her to use it as a teething tool - she will only munch on burp cloths for relief!

It occurred to me that she could be wanting to nurse, because that always calms her down, but I definitely didn't want to have that crutch to deal with. She simply is being taught to sleep without the swaddle and learn what to do with her arms, and I don't want to add nursing into her learning this new skill.

But then I felt terrible, because what if she was truly hungry? And I was not feeding her? I have a schedule that we loosely follow, but lately she'd been eating every 2 hours instead of 2.5-3 hours. So I sat there, rocking my crying/screaming baby, wondering what in the world to do. What decision to make? Give in, or continue the "sleep training"?

Those moments are so not fun. She rarely cries, so when she does, I feel so confused and helpless and frustrated when I can't soothe her.

I'd had so much success in getting her to sleep the last few times this way...what was different this time??

Fortunately I got her to sleep in the next few minutes. I held her for that nap and slept with her in the chair. I was too tired to attempt to get her in the crib without waking. 

I didn't bother attempting arms out the rest of the day. I was not feeling like trying it again.

I'm learning some days are just like that.

Some days are going to be harder than others and have setbacks. It doesn't mean its hopeless and you should give up, just that you can try again tomorrow. Babies need to be taught to do something new, and that takes multiple times to adjust.

I think I get the most confused and frustrated when I have raging success with something, and the next time I try it, it fails miserably. I literally go from feeling so, so elated to feeling quite the opposite. Sometimes multiple times in one day!! I keep reassuring myself that it's not a big deal...we can try again tomorrow...or next week. It's so hard to match up when a child is "ready" to learn a skill and when you are wanting to teach it to her.

I mostly struggle with finding her "window" of sleepiness. In my last post I touched on this - I was napping her too early, and she fought going to sleep. While she is now teething, I have to pay extra close attention to her sleepy signs. Her fussiness of teething makes me think she is tired early and napping doesn't go well. She can be distracted to stay awake too long...I've let that happen a few times and napping didn't go well then, either. Right at two hours of awake time is usually her sweet spot and she only wimpers and shuts her eyes within a minute or two of rocking.

So yes, I love being a mommy to Miss Ava. She is such joy! But motherhood itself is a challenge. People always say "it's so hard to be a parent", and it is very true. And it is so hard to put it into a simple sentence what "it's so hard" means. 

It's any situation where you are scared, confused, frustrated, tired, exhausted...more or less, you simply don't know what to do. With all my experience with babies, I do have a lot of knowledge and ideas, but there are times when I don't know what decision to make. The only person who can solve the problem is you. You are the mommy. And sometimes you can't solve it!

Parenthood is trial and error. Ups and downs. And sometimes things just have to suck for a little bit before time makes it all better. Give you baby a week and sometimes the very thing they hated suddenly becomes the thing they love.

I do spend a considerable amount of time googling things and reading other peoples' stories of their struggles and what worked for them. And while it's fine to adapt that to your baby, just remember that you do not have to hold yourself to anyone else's standard of raising a baby. Only you can decide the best way to raise your child. If it doesn't feel right to you after a few tries, abandon ship and try again another time...or maybe a different method all together!

I am hoping that the next time I post Ava will have successfully weaned from the swaddle. But I'm trying hard not to hold my breath about it. I guess if I don't have expectations then I can't be disappointed...it would just be so great if she can do it!!

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