My baby decided to stage the ultimate protest to my return to work this week. I anticipated a nice Sunday night of mental and physical preparation for my first week back.
Max, however, decided that Sunday would be the night to turn his runny nose into full-fledged miserable, feverish illness. So my Monday started on zero sleep and no preparation for the week ahead. Luckily, my husband has a flexible schedule and so we were able to split sick baby duty that day.
Monday night was even worse. More screaming, less sleep. The only thing that could calm him down was breastfeeding, and so the majority of my night was spent in the glider, breastfeeding the baby and trying not to hallucinate from exhaustion. At one point, my husband tried to relieve me and give Max a bottle, but Max refused. My kid never refuses milk in any form, so my husband immediately postulated that something was very wrong. Now, I have always assumed that my mommy’s intuition would tell me if and when something was wrong with my baby. So in all honesty I dismissed his concern and concluded to myself that my baby just wanted the comfort of his mommy.
The next morning I knew that my husband was itching for us to call the pediatrician, and, although I was pretty confident that we would get sent home (again) with first time parent reassurances that it was a cold and we would have to wait it out, I called and made an appointment anyway, mostly to humor him.
It turns out that our baby has his first ear infection. His screaming and frequent wakings were from pain in his ears. Epic mommy fail. Where the hell was my mother’s intuition in the midst of an ear infection? I have always prided myself on being able to read every last one of my baby’s signals, but somehow Daddy’s intuition beat me out.
I feel pretty terrible about my inability to sense that something more was wrong with my kid this time, but I’m also really grateful that both my husband and I are in tune with the little guy.
After 3 months of back to back visits from family to “help” with the baby, my husband and I were exhausted. So we told our families that no more visitors would be allowed until after I had gone back to work and we had established an ongoing routine. Which has been great, but it also means that we no longer get the benefit of grandparent-sponsored date nights out. And that means that we have to get a sitter.
You would think that hiring a sitter would be far easier than hiring a nanny. I mean, I babysat for neighbors all the time growing up. From the age of 11 or so on, I watched up to 3 kids at a time, as young as 2 years old. So being/finding a sitter never struck me as all that difficult until it was for my own baby. And I realized that it is just as arduous as hiring a nanny. While a sitter will spend far less time with the baby than a nanny will, that time will most likely include BEDTIME.
Bedtime is not for the faint of heart. We personally haven’t really mastered sleep training (although we are working on it, more on that later). So the bedtime routine, as well as the quality of the swaddle and the delicate dance of actually putting him down in his crib are all critically important in determining whether it will be a great night or a nightmare.
So how have we gone about finding a sitter?
1. I joined sittercity.com and posted there (there are several sites for finding caregivers, care.com is another one). I ended up with about 20 applicants, and narrowed it down to a handful for phone interviews. From there I set up time to meet in person with a few, and finally narrowed it down to a couple that I thought would be good caregivers. Iwas looking for someone who seemed reasonably intelligent and even-keeled, had experience with younger children, was well-educated, and energetic/enthusiastic about babies. The in-person interview was also key for me because I rely heavily on gut feel about a person, as well as how they interact with my baby.
2. This should go without saying, but we also called and spoke to all references, and ran background checks. I would suggest googling people too. You would be surprised what a simple google search will pull up that even a background check won’t surface.
3. I strongly suggest inviting a sitter over to “sit” for your baby while you are home just like you would with a new nanny so that they can get to know each other in a stress-free environment . Max is only 4 months old and already has severe separation anxiety. A stranger can hold him for approximately 4.5 seconds before his bottom lip is out and quivering, and then youhave about 2 more seconds before he is full on wailing with giant tears streaming down his face. Its heartbreaking. So we have set up multiple sessions with the sitter for her to just come over and play with him while we are here so that he can get used to her.
We just had our first of these sessions. She was here for an hour and a half, and it wasn’t until the last 15 min that he would allow her to hold him without busting out the quivering lip. Baby steps, but progress nonetheless. We will probably have on more play session with her before we move on to having her shadow us through the bedtime routine. it may seem excessive but it is so worth it to be able to go out for a night without worrying about or baby having a meltdown while we are gone.
Its definitely a long slow process, but we are hoping to actually get that date night out before his first birthday. Wish us luck.
For the past two months, I have been nagging my husband nonstop about taking a vacation. I took five months off for maternity leave, and I felt like it would be a waste to not take advantage of the time off to get away, just the three of us. I also felt like I needed to prove that our lives would not be given over completely to babydom and that we’d still be able to travel and vacation like we always had, just with a little extra cargo.
For the record, my husband was sure that travelling with a four month old would be a nightmare. I was 100% optimistic that it would be great, and we’d have a fabulous, relaxing time. He finally agreed to give it a go, and we ended up settling on a weeklong trip to Hawaii, where we could do as much or as little as we wanted.
I thought we covered all bases for a successful trip. We rented a 2 br condo so we could have a kitchen and a room for Max. I also packed a ton of chairs, blankets, toys, and books for him to ensure endless entertainment. I was completely ready.
The thing is though, that babies are unpredictable. Max hit a growth spurt the first day we were there that lasted the whole week. Being constantly hungry made him constantly fussy. He also hated the heat, and hated the carseat in the heat more. Naps also disappeared, replaced only by dozing while on the breast, and sleeping through the night turned into waking 3-4 times per night. Needless to say, we spent the majority of the week in the condo, me on the couch breastfeeding, and my husband occupying himself on his laptop.
By the end of the second day, I realized that my vision of this vacation was not going to happen, and that (for the first time), my husband may have been right. My vacation bar had to be lowered to infant-level.
An infant-level bar meant that if we made it out to do one thing each day, we considered it a success. A long walk one day. An hour at the pool the next. We peaked the day we spent two whole hours at the beach, and reached our low the day that we had to abort our one attempt to get out of the condo for a drive around the island because of a hysterical baby.
I wanted so badly to be able to say that travelling with Max was a breeze, but its not true. Travelling with a baby is exhausting and unpredictable. I now fully admit that I have never felt such relief to end a vacation and come home.
And, of course, the day after we got back, Max was angellic. Home sweet home.
During my pregnancy, I was an information junkie. I trolled the web, message boards, and read tons of books on how to be a parent to a newborn and what to do and not do to produce a baby that slept, ate and pooped like a rockstar. And I was fully prepared to follow these instruction manuals to the letter.
And then I didn’t. I lasted approximately 10 hours before succumbing to my first no-no. Here are my top 5 “rules” that I have broken so far in the name of survival.
1. Introduction of the pacifier – They say not to introduce a pacifier until one month of age. I think this is to avoid nipple confusion. I was steadfast that we would adhere to this rule, until my baby decided to use my nipple for comfort. Nonstop. For the first 10 straight hours of his existence. Until we stuck that beautiful pacifier in his mouth. No nipple confusion. Only nipple gratitude.
2. Intro to bottle – I think this is also a nipple confusion issue. We introduced a bottle at 3 days old. Mostly because I somehow forgot that I shouldn’t. I was sleep-deprived and needed a break. Not all babies take bottles, even after waiting the requisite amount of time. My baby had no problem though, being able to let daddy handle some feedings was awesome.
3. Co-sleeping – I know this is controversial and that many people are huge advocates of co-sleeping. Since this was my first go, I was thinking that I would just follow the American Pediatrics Association guidelines since I assumed that they would be the ultimate authority on what is best and safest, and they advise against co-sleeping. But our baby refused to sleep anywhere but with us for the first two months, and co-sleeping was the only way for any of us to get any sleep.
4. Nursing to sleep – I am generally pretty good about this one because I don’t want him to be dependent on eating to sleep. But it works so damn well that I still use the boob to get him to go down when I am particularly tired and feeling lazy or when he’s particularly fussy.
5. Intro to solids – the latest word from the American Pediatrics Association is to wait until 6 months to introduce solids. I guess some research has shown that exclusively bf’ing longer leads to reduction in allergies. My pediatrician suggested I wait until 5 months. I was on board, until my baby hit “the growth spurt that wouldn’t end” at 3.5 months and started nursing every hour and a half. So, the day that he turned 4 months old, I had a spoonful of sweet potatoes ready to shove in his mouth. And he loved it. Couldn’t get enough. And now I only have to breastfeed every 3 hours like normal people. Again, nipple gratitude.
We are now almost 5 months in, my baby is happy, thriving, and sleeps great. And I finally realized that mommy’s intuition works as a pretty good guide, and some rules are meant to be broken, because every baby is different.
What parenting rules has your baby had you bend, twist, or flat out ignore?
I have always been a great lover of massage. I go for two hour sessions. Yes, two hours. Because two hours is really the only acceptable length of time to cover your whole body, in my opinion. I love my massage not only because it feels awesome on my muscles, but also because for those two hours I am able to escape into a completely relaxed mini-coma. Half conscious, drifting between thought and dream, I can let my mind just flitter about indulgently without having to think about anything.
A couple of months ago, I went for my first post-pregnancy massage. I was exhausted and so looking forward to that escape. But I remained conscious and thinking the whole time. I assumed it was a fluke, until I went back again yesterday for another session. Not only did I remain conscious, but I was seriously stressed. All I could think about was my baby. Who was in the excellent hands of my husband. But I couldn’t help but worry about everything. Here’s a ten second sample of my thoughts during my two hour “relaxing” massage:
I wonder if Alex is giving Max a bath yet. Its been a while since Alex gave him a bath, does he know that the he likes to lean over and lay his head onto the side of the tub now when he’s tired? Oh god, what if the baby leans over and Alex isn’t ready and the tub somehow topples over, off the bathroom counter and the baby falls head first onto the floor? What would happen if my baby fell onto the tile floor? Oh god, he would crack his head open! He could die! I have to stop the massage and call Alex and tell him. My baby is going to fall out of the bathtub if I don’t text Alex right now. Oh god oh god oh god.
And that’s when I realized. I will never be able to fully relax again. Because people with kids can never relax like people without kids. Ever. And maybe being a very new parent makes the worry a little worse than having grown children, but I know that it will always be there. And, ironically, true relaxation no longer comes from escape. These days it comes from holding my baby.
Max is our first baby, so we had no idea what being parents would be like. When I was pregnant, I used to envision the kind of mother I would be. I would not be neurotic or overly protective. I would be calm and easy-going, accept offers of help, and maintain a balanced existence
Then, four months ago, I had Max. And all bets have been off. My life revolves around this little guy and I have wanted nothing to do with the help proffered by my parents and inlaws. Hands off! He’s mine! Only I can take care of him properly! Only I can comfort him when he cries! I can barely stand to let other people hold him much less actually care for him. Add to that the fact that he has severe reflux, and I am about as neurotic and overprotective as they come.
We had discussed childcare early on and had decided on a daycare center because a nanny was too expensive for us. Now, just weeks after Max was born, I was having panic attacks at the thought of going back to work in a few months and leaving my baby in daycare where the ratio was four babies for every teacher. Four! My baby needs my full time love and attention and I am supposed to leave him to 25% of a stranger!
While I had been having complete meltdowns at the thought of leaving my baby, my husband launched into problem solving mode. Nanny sharing was an alternative that we felt was really doable, but first we needed to find another family to pair up with. None of the nanny or baby sites offered a service to match families, so my husband, ever the fixer, went and built one. A week later, NannyShare was born. We built it for our own needs, but we hope that it will help other parents out too.
On top of nannyshare, we decided to add this blog to have a place to talk about our experiences as first time parents. I hope that as we share our stories you will share yours back. We are winging it the vast majority of the time, and would love to hear how you are doing in your own parenting adventures.