Into The Thick Of It

After spending 90% of last week sicker than I’ve been since I was pregnant with Alex, arguing with Ben over who deserved the coveted couch space more and who hogged the blanket with alarming frequency (answer: Ben), poor Alex has finally come down with his first real illness.

With a 1st grader in the house, this is no small feat that he’s remained healthy for so long. I, myself, have had a low-grade cold since this winter began approximately 4 years ago (give or take), and somehow have managed to avoid passing it onto him. Until now.

Thankfully for my guilt complex, however, Alex has finally reached an age where I don’t worry/feel as badly as I would if he were a wee bit younger. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sorry for him when he looks at me with those sad, red-rimmed and glassy eyes, but he’s been such an asshole that I’m less sympathetic.

While it’s sweet that he follows me around like a monkey, clinging to my legs and whining for me to do, well, SOMETHING, but he, like me, has no idea WHAT I should be doing to help him, so we both wind up whining loudly at each other for extended periods of time.

It’s no wonder that Ben was begging to go to school and The Daver is happily ensconced in a “project” at “work” which is likely code for “going to the bar to avoid us.”

I can’t really blame either of them. Collectively we’re annoying and we know it. AND YET WE’RE POWERLESS TO STOP OURSELVES.

So, I suppose I can only hope and pray that this virus runs it’s course, leaving my less demanding toddler in it’s wake. Because if he remains glued to my legs and shrieking wildly, I may have to start self-medicating or check myself into rehab just to get away from him.

Don’t Give Me That Goody-Goody-Goody Bullshit

It seems as though over the past 11 months, we have created a monster. A 30 inch tall, 20+ pound monster, who drools, craps his pants (regularly!), and enjoys nothing more than tormenting his surroundings.

Now, even with the colic (and thanks in part to his sensory issues and subsequent autistic spectrum diagnosis) and dislike of human interaction, Ben was a remarkably easy toddler. Once he started trundling along and obsessing about either the planets or the pendulum on the grandfather clock, he was a fairly enjoyable guy.

Sure, he still wasn’t the kid you wanted to take out and do stuff with as he’d get overwhelmed in places like Target (the same way, I presume, that I feel about Best Buy) and fall apart, but as far as behavior issues went, Ben was easy-peasy (until aged 3, when all hell broke loose).

When Alex was born, and my glorious doctor was rooting around in my uterus for retained placenta (it sounds as fun as it felt), I swear on The Baby Jesus that had I not immediately thrust him to the boob, he’d have found a way to levitate there on his own (for comparison’s sake only, I will tell you that when I did the same with Ben, about 5 minutes old–although not only was the not-so-glorious doctor rooting around for placenta fragments, he was ALSO stitching up my 4th! degree! tears!– he not only raised his head away from my gigantic nipple, he arched his back and screamed so loudly I looked around to see what had poked him. Little did I know that this was to be The Way It Was for another year).

Alex is the same child who vibrates with pleasure upon being introduced to brand-new foods, like you were handing him the keys to a Lotus Elise, and eats as much (likely more, if I measured) than his 6 year old brother, AND enjoys the occasional snuggle.

Nope, no Aspy-ness there.

On the other hand, whereas Ben is a complete Follower (much to my dismay) and will do whatever it is that someone, anyone around him is doing (lemming much?), Alex wants things his way. Right now. Bitch.

Along with the mischief making of being 11 months old, I swear again on The Baby Jesus that he has started throwing tantrums. If I dare to give him water when he OBVIOUSLY WANTS JUICE (Mom, you ignorant slut!), he shrieks so loudly that my neighbors may actually be assuming that I’m practicing human sacrifice in my family room.

If, in the form of an “Alex, NO” I tell him gently that tearing magazines apart is not such a good way to spend the afternoon (Mom, you ignorant SLUT!), he screams bloody murder WITHOUT ME SO MUCH AS TOUCHING HIM.

(before you think ill of my child-proofing techniques, I promise that I don’t have much around at his level that he can get into–aside from the occasional dime, of course–and therefore be yelled at for touching. I got rid of my Ming Vases at a garage sale along with my sanity many years ago.)

It’s not as though I have issue with telling kids “No”–which, along with no longer using Red Ink on school papers, is the new wave of brat-making, erm parenting– I just don’t think that he needs to hear it every other word while he’s exploring the house and kicking up dust hyenas.

On the one hand, it’s pretty damn hysterical to see an 11 month old who cannot even walk (yet) get so angry about not getting what he wants AT THE PRECISE MOMENT HE SO DESIRES IT, but on the other, more practical hand, it bodes ill for my future AND my eardrums. Because, primarily, I am the Most Stubborn Human Being On The Face (27 years and counting!) on the planet, and it appears that he is about to try to usurp my title, flailing his chubby wrists at my plight.

It should be an interesting year decade ahead of us.

And If You Go Chasing Rabbits.

Last night, after many months of hemming and hawing (what the hell does that mean, anyway?), for the first time in the history of his existence, Alex slept through the night.

Attachment parents everywhere are now gathering slings and breast pump parts to lob at me viciously, but I do not care. Last I checked, none of them had offered to come over and love him back to sleep for me, which leaves my sympathy at approximately zero.

It took about 15 minutes of my Benevolent Dictator screaming in his crib for him to realize that neither of his slaves were rushing to his aid, and he promptly stopped screaming and eventually went to sleep (at least, I am assuming that he went to sleep. He could have been translating the collective works of Aristotle for all that I know. Or care.).

(Did you see The Exorcist? Do you remember the part when the possessed little girl is alone in her bedroom and her eyes pop open and she starts being really demonic? I always used to imagine that this is precisely what Alex looked like when he woke up overnight to beckon me to his side. And I am telling you that the minute you start comparing your child to the kid in The Exorcist is when you know once and for all that you are very.not.happy.)

I know better than to pat myself on the back too much, as I know full well that this is just one night in a string of behavior changing nights, but you see, I don’t care. I’m fucking happy as fuck and I am proud of us for doing what we’d needed to do for so long.

Makes me a little ashamed that we haven’t tried it sooner, as it really went much more smoothly than I’d imagined (although, I’m pleased enough that my skin is not shredded into baby nail sized ribbons and hanging off my frame disgustingly, which is really part of how I envisioned my first night of Crying it Out. Alex is cute because he can be so brutal. The cuteness is a defense mechanism on his part so that I don’t “accidentally” “forget him” “at” “the store”).

*ahem*

I feel as though a weight has been lifted off my back (a 20 pound weight, if I must specify, and genuinely not the weight of the world. Even I am not that melodramatic. Shut up. I am not.) and I can not recall a time in recent history when I have felt so incredibly positive. I’m still tired (extra sleep that I’m not accustomed to gives me a odd sleep hangover. Does that happen to anyone else?) but I’m happy.

Nothing On The Top But A Bucket And A Mop

After I woke up on Saturday morning feeling like I had somehow died and this was my own version of hell, I informed my poor husband that I had finally reached my breaking point with Alex and his lackluster sleep patterns. I told him that I was now so furious with the Baby that he was going to have to just start crying it out.

And I meant it.

We snared a babysitter and went off to Target to look at all of the gimicky stuff that baby manufacturers produce for people like me, who feel better if they’re doing SOMETHING, ANYTHING to work towards a solution.

I even oogled those baby video monitors for a spell, despite their price, when it dawned on me that I can see the baby with my own two eyes most of the day (and night!) and therefore did not need to watch him on the television. But man, the draw was there.

It was only after we got home with a sleep positioner (c’mon, Becky, HE CAN ROLL OVER! What the hell is the purpose of THAT?), a crib pad (which I had needed for him anyway as his mattress is vinyl and when he sleeps on it, he sweats, which is not pleasant for anyone), several new crib sheets, and a bottle of No Doze (for me, obviously), and I peered none too lovingly at his chubby face and realized that he was either sick or teething because his cheeks were bright red.

And because I am not quite a monster, I decided that Crying it Out was just going to have to wait until he felt better.

As a complete aside, if you do not want to feel badly about yourself DO NOT GOOGLE “CRYING IT OUT.” Most people who write about it on the Internet seem to liken it to child abuse and list all sorts of problems that may or may not be caused by this horrible oh horrible method of parenting.

I’d be hard pressed to call this method of sleep training “ideal” but I cannot get over the fact that Crying it Out is worse than “child abuse” or “suicide.” Besides, I haven’t met a single supporter of the Crying it Out Is Bad camp who has selflessly offered to give up their foray into the Land of Nod to help me out.

(And even as parents, at some point we do need to reclaim our lives, don’t we?)

I guess my own personal motto of parenting (which my husband firmly agrees with) could be called “Whatever Gets You Through The Night (Or Day)” and I can’t feel all that bad about it. I try like hell to be as non-judgmental as possible for people who don’t parent exactly the same way I do, but hell, reading some of those responses to “Cry it Out” on the Internet does tend to chafe a bit and raise my hackles.

(Hmmmm….I wonder if I should come up with some sort of code name for Crying it Out here, because as the Lovers of Vincent D’Onofrio found me, I’m sure the Parenting Police will be following suit and telling me that I shouldn’t have had kids if I was going to abuse them by making them cry at night AND occasionally forcing them to listen to Britney Spears (although not at night).)

Ah, oh well, bring on the haters, I say!

I could use a blog troll here or there, right?

(and under no circumstances should one google “baby slaps face” because I was trying to ascertain why Alex seems to delight is slapping my face as I hold him and when the hell this annoying habit will cease. But all that this search pulled up is a bunch of child abuse articles, NOT parental abuse ones.)

So, for now, I will get up at night with Alex, who has stopped being such an asshole for the time being, and soon, oh soon, Crying It Out must begin in my home. Otherwise I am apt to lose any shreds of sanity I have left (which are few and far between).

Maybe, Baby, It’s Me

My son, Alex turns 10 months next week. In these past 10 months, despite my praying, hoping, magical thinking, and even bribery (c’mon baby, don’t you want a Mercedes?), we have made almost zero progress in the whole sleeping realm.

I’ve bought any number of sleep books (but have drawn the line at actually finding anything remotely useful in them, although they do make nice coasters), cried, thrown myself around hysterically in an effort to “get attention,” punched several holes in various walls (frustration, not crappy botched remodeling job), and traded nights with The Daver.

I’ve rocked until my feet felt like lead, I’ve nursed until my nipples blanched, I’ve driven around aimlessly with baby in tow until the road looks blurry, I’ve bounced him in his bouncy seat until my hands cramped. I’ve bought such crib gadgets such as a rain forest soother, a fancy mobile, we tried this vibrating thingy that you put under the mattress, all to no avail.

I’ve googled “sleep regression” and “sleep problems” until my fingers turned blue, and have learned that in order to have a “sleep regression” one has to have been sleeping well to begin with.

Ha.Ha.Ha.

I caught myself recently actually thinking about buying this, at $250 it seemed like a bargain, and it was a combination of this ridiculous potential purchase and the fact that Alex decided that 1:30 A.M. last night was a jolly good time to GET UP FOR THE FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT MOTHER HUMPING DAY.

I spent over an hour trying to get him back to sleep (it didn’t work), and when I realized that I was physically seething with anger at my teeny (but fat) dictator, I marched downstairs and informed The Daver that I was so incredibly angry that I didn’t want to SEE the baby again, no matter what, for a long time. That I wanted to FORGET that I had a second son for a night, and should he try to rouse me to help him with the baby, that he would be very, very sorry. To the tune of a set of lost testicles (but whose would go? THAT WAS THE QUESTION!).

When Alex was younger, I tried to let him Cry It Out, as I had with poor Ben, who was born not knowing that his days were not, in fact, nights. That one got old fast enough, and Ben caught on fast enough that he became a great sleeper rather quickly.

Alex was not so impressed. He seemed to get more and more upset by being left alone, and eventually we stopped doing this. I’d like to tell you that things have at least gotten marginally better over time, but that would be a complete lie (but it would sound better than having me tell you that things have gotten worse).

But now it’s time. After almost 10 months of completely disjointed sleep, resulting in anxiety, depression, threatening my spouse with bodily harm AND divorce, fantasizing about suicide, and considering running away, I am hereby (and henceforth) done.

The problem used to lie squarely within Alex (I completely assure you that although this is angling to be my last baby, I promise on all that is holy I am not trying to keep him a baby who needs his momma at all. I LIKE older children better than this whole “needy” crap that babies do.), and I fear the problem has turned out to be within us.

We naively hoped for a change in this sleep shit, and when it didn’t come, we logicated that any sleep was better than no sleep, and that it really wasn’t so bad, this whole getting up every 1-3 hours! It was fun!

(by we, I mostly mean “me.” Dave has a job that requires an attention span greater than a gnat.)

Fuck this noise, I am so completely over getting up all night long.

I’m not pretending that this is going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it sounds a fuck of a lot better than contemplating the least messy (but most effective) way to commit suicide.

Any suggestions? Or well wishes? Aunt Becky is not very happy today.

Say Goodbye To BabyHood.

Contrary to my absolute best efforts to make Alex’s first word “fuck head” or “shitballs,” he has defied me yet again and has proven himself both to be his father’s son AND his Aunt Ashley’s Future Husband (well, once she marries and then divorces Uncle Chicken) by his choice of first word.

Kitty-Cat.

Between the constant sleep deprivation and extreme hormonal swings, I have absolutely no idea when he became such a sentient being, and I’m admitting to you that it’s freaking me out a hair. People always annoy new parents (and pregnant women, but EVERYTHING annoys a pregnant woman, so I’m not including them in this statement. Seriously, still air annoyed me while I was pregnant, because it JUST SAT THERE WHILE I WAS GESTATING UNCOMFORTABLY! Is there any wonder why, when I mention having another baby in passing to Dave, he weeps and puts on a chastity belt? I didn’t think so) by saying “They grow up so quickly” while dabbing the tears from their eyes.

They say it because it’s fucking true and against all odds, it makes you sort of sad to see the babyhood go away, even to admitted non-baby people such as myself. We ran into a family with a much smaller baby the other day, and even cold (nearly) heartless Aunt Becky got a wee bit misty looking at his tiny perfection (for some reason this one didn’t look like a garden gnome) and reminiscing about when my children were that small and helpless.

The Bumbo and the Boppy need to be packed away with the breast pump (I cannot even begin to achieve letdown with it anymore) and my Breast Friend pillow thing-y, and soon the Saucer and Jumparoo will join them in storage for the one day that we either decide to spawn another terrible sleeper or give it away to friends. Although we’re not getting rid of all of this stuff, I am all too aware that we’re approaching the end of the Alex Is A Baby Era. While I know in my heart this is a Good Thing, I’m just a touch saddened by this.

Soon, he will be walking and I will be planning a first birthday party for him, and in the wink of the blink, he’s going to be in school, have smelly feet, and think that his mother is annoying as all hell. It will be then that I spring into action and try to be the most irritating mother in the world to him: I’m going to show up to school with my hair in curlers and wearing bunny slippers and a ratty robe, drive a mini-van with the vanity plate “Metal Rules” with a light-up skull license plate holder, and try to pepper my vocabulary with as much popular slang as possible.

Er…no, I haven’t been planning this since my first son was born or anything…okay, yes, yes I have.

I mean, they deserve SOME kind of payback for the stretch marks that have been plastered to my body, breasts that will hang down to my knees like oranges in tube socks (once I stop lactating), and the grey hairs that have begun sprouting from my head with alarming frequency, right?

Right.

Anything else I can do to annoy them? What am I missing here? What annoyed you most about your parents (and don’t tell me “nothing” because I cannot believe that. My parents allowed me to smoke the ganja, drink booze, forge their signatures to write myself out of class if I needed to and have no set curfew, and STILL I was annoyed by them)?

Undercover Mother.

I’m pretty sure that we’ve established that my two children couldn’t be more dissimilar if I’d tried, haven’t we? Alex is an Eater, Ben is a Sleeper, and yet I’m still shocked when I find yet another difference.

Alex is currently holding strong as my cuddliest child (which is my polite way of saying needy), which vacillates from flattering the hell out of me and driving me bonkers. Most of the time, it’s incredibly endearing that when you walk past him, he strains his entire frame while protesting loudly, like “Hey, bitches, I’m down here. Pick my ass up!” When he’s plucked out of whatever gizmo he’d been happily occupying UNTIL YOU REMINDED HIM THAT HE HAS OTHER OPTIONS, he’ll burry his head in your neck and try to give your jaw a hickey. Pretty cute, right?

Until you are actually attempting to do something that does not involve lugging a 17 pound child around, like, for instance, brushing your hair. Or cooking on the hot stove. Then, it’s just a bit tedious.

My neighbors must think I’m a bit touched in the head (especially after they’ve all seen me walking around without my shirt. Sorry for any infertillity that may have caused, but the kid wouldn’t let go of the boobs for very long, and I would just kind of forget that the ladies were just hanging out there, because, well, THEY WERE ALWAYS OUT THERE.), because now, if you were to come by when I was trying to do something, ANYTHING, you’d likely find me crawling around on the floor, past the couches that block his view of me until I was completely out of his line of sight.

(whew, that was a long sentence. Can we say run-on, boys and girls? I know I can!)

It sounds excessive, I’m sure, but the thought had recently entered my head to blow up a full sized picture of myself, glue it onto a Becky-shaped cardboard cutout, and be done with it. Maybe I could even just past a picture of my head on the hulla girl.

Because somedays, somedays, I’d really like to get stuff done.

Spectacular Failure

This weekend was supposed to house the night that I was to have completely free of the screamy baby.

Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Both Dave and Alexander came down with the cold that had taken up residence in my sinuses and because my resistance is way, way down due mainly to my complete lack of sleep, is still holding tightly onto me. So, Saturday night I headed to bed nice and geriatrically early (for me: 9:30), Nyquil firmly on board. 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 the sweet baby awoke for no apparent reason other than the boogies in his nose were driving him crazy, and that he wanted to make me wish that I were dead.

In order to inflict exquisite torture upon him because I am a Mean Person, I decided to pull out the Booger Sucker and do some work each time. But by 1am, I had HAD it with him and deposited him none to sweetly with his father, whose nose full of loud boogies had earned him banishment to the downstairs couch.

Back to bed I happily treked (actually full of guilt, but hey), only to be awoken by my husband 30 minutes later who waltzed in to get the Booger Sucker. Then, 20 minutes after that, back in they trekked, Alex now visably hysterical. Maternal Guilt took over, and I pulled Alex into bed with me. Where he stayed until several hours later at 7:30am.

Which effectively meant that I started out Sunday morning worse off than I’d previously been.

*Sigh.*

I Found My Thrills On Blueberry Hill.

Because I am a certified Bad Mother (nifty framed certificate and all!), I started my Alexander on solids as soon as I possibly could in desperate hope that this would resolve the My Child NEVER Sleeps Problem. It didn’t actually do the slightest bit of good in the Sleeping Department, but at least it gave my poor nipples a rest for a time or two.

To say that he has taken to solids well would be a drastic understatement, he LOVES his solids, which thrills me in ways I’d never imagined.

Let me back up for a moment, so I can let you in on where this comes from: Ben, my darling Ben is not what we in this family call An Eater (but he is, however A Sleeper). Sure, now he’ll wolf down McDonalds like it’s going out of style, but what you never saw is the coaxing, pleading, begging and threatening we did in order to even get him to TRY THAT in first place. WHY would I make him eat this horrible, overprocessed, fatty gross food, might you ask? I was sick and tired of him only eating Saltines and Oatmeal three times per day and I assumed that this would be some sort of safer segueway into eating Real Food That Doesn’t Taste Like Cardboard. It worked. Eventually.

But not before some nearly irreparable damage was done to my ego. You see, when your kid does ANYTHING outside the norm, and as I can see, FoodStuff appear to garner a special place here, people are so very interested in discussing this with you. Discussing is totally the wrong word. More like judging you loudly about it.

Before we knew about the Spectrum Stuff, I was given SO MUCH FLACK about what my child ate that I eventually developed a hugemongous complex about my parenting in general. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t TRIED to get my son to eat food, it’s just that he flipped the hell out every time I did so, and I wasn’t about to engage in a battle of the wills with a toddler. Period. Why give the poor kid a complex at such a young age? (BTW: we used the same method to potty train him and it worked beautifully).

So, chip on my shoulder large and intact, I used to laugh bitterly every time that I would head down the baby aisle, where the diapers are so convienently located across from the large display of prepackaged baby foods, because as far as I was concerned, it was all a sham: no one’s kids ate that crap (to be fair, if you saw “Turkey Dinner” all pureed in a jar, the color of vomit AND UNREFRIDGERATED you’d call it crap, too). I picked up some fruits and veggies in July, just to have on hand in the unlikely event that my child would ever allow such stuff to grace his ickle palate. Wouldn’t you know it, my supply of this mushed up food is now nearly depleated.

This has redeemed me in ways that I had never thought possible, because maybe, just maybe the problems with Ben had nothing to do with me in the first place. That might sound like a “Well, duh, Becky” statement, but it isn’t, not really. Parents, especially with their first child, are likely to blame themselves as well have to fend off blame from other people for whatever abnormalities (or as I prefer: personallity) that their children may have.

But since seeing Alexander literally wriggle his ickle body with joy when confronted with yogurt (so much so that I actually checked to ensure that he was not having a seizure. Yes, I’m serious.), I’ve decided that maybe, baby, it had nothing to do with me.

So thank you, Alexander, and thank you Gerber baby foods (which I still contend look awful) for redeeming me in ways I’d never imagined.

Stttttrrrriiiiiikkkkkkke!

Alex is on what the experts call a “nursing strike,” and despite my conflicted emotions about breastfeeding in general (I love it most of the time, but sometimes I do hate it) I am literally wracked with guilt.

Ah, guilt, the other primary emotion of motherhood. Guilt, guilt, guilt. What did I do wrong? How is my body failing me? Etc, etc, etc. Maybe it’s not strictly a maternal thing, though, maybe some father’s experience it as well, I’m not sure. I married a man who, God love him, is quick to reassure me that things that happen to or with either of our children cannot be classified as my fault, nor are they his fault. It’s meant to be sweet, of course, and most of the time it is, but sometimes there is a more banal part of myself that wants to scream at him that “YES, *I* did this to our kids! It’s MY fault that I cannot find a Mead ™ brand red plastic covered 3 subject notebook!!!” It’s not rational and it’s not fair, which is why I bite my tongue.

It’s interesting to note that ANYTHING that I did with/to Ben as a baby was my fault in Nat’s eyes. It was MY fault that Ben didn’t breastfeed (although it was later determined that Ben cannot stand to be touched); Ben was screamy because *I* decided to try solids on him too early, the icecaps are melting because I dared to not listen to NPR on an hourly basis. He was always convinced of my guilt before I even did whatever it was that I was to feel guilty about, although I never once saw him guilty about anything that he did.

Maybe it’s just me, then. Having grown the daughter of a bipolar alcoholic does happen to make a person rather guilt ridden. I’ve been known to feel guilty about things that I have had absolutely no control over. Take September 11, 2001, which was approximately 3 weeks after Ben was born: I FELT GUILTY ABOUT BRINGING BEN INTO THE WORLD DURING SUCH A TIME, as though I’d have been able to predict that would happen while unintentionally getting pregnant. Today, one of the cats pissed in the living room. I felt guilty about that, obviously I wasn’t fit to be the parent to the furbabies. I finished priming the bathroom last night and this morning I noticed that the walls were nowhere as smooth as I’d have liked them to be, especially considering the labor I put into them. This made me feel guilty.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around prostrate with grief (although if I were prostrate with grief, I doubt I’d be sitting, I’d probably be laying somewhere dramatically) day in and day out. Overall, I’m pretty well-hinged and even tempered (somewhere, Dave is laughing silently, while weeping), but situations like this nursing strike tend to make me feel overly guilty about something outside of my control. He’s teething, the rational part of my mind screams, get over it, he’ll be back on the nip soon enough. Then I google “nursing strike” and Dr. Google reminds me that it’s somehow my fault that he’s not nursing: I’ve been drinking too much coffee, I’ve been eating something he doesn’t like, I’ve been snorting too much blow.

Seriously, 90% of material about pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting place the blame for most poor behavior, including that of newborn infants squarely on the mother, which is interesting, because last I checked, children have a biological father somewhere, too, even if he’s not in the picture. He is, apparently, never to blame for anything whatsoever. I suppose that reading that kind of shit just reinforces what is inborn to mothers: you are to blame for most everything that goes wrong with your child.

I don’t know about all of this. All that I do know is that I am terribly, ridiculously sad right now.