So, I’ve Figured Out How to Get Stuff Done With a Baby

And it involves getting very comfortable with light yelling.

When we first had Baboo, Adam and I realized very quickly that we weren’t comfortable letting her cry it out. However, what we didn’t know was that there’s a wide gulf between “crying it out” and “vocalizing in a complainy manner.”

Before I was able to make that distinction, I essentially got nothing done while I was watching Baboo. None work and none cleaning and none cooking and none personal hygiene. I was a smelly, hungry, cranky mess and my house looked like a time capsule from the year six months ago.

I could picture a team of intrepid explorers jimmying the front door and standing in awe of the perfectly preserved tableau before them.

“What do you see?” one pith-helmeted digger would ask the other.

“Wonderful things!” the other would say. “… Actually, wait. It looks like a bunch of toys that no one has put away in a week and a laundry pile that’s grown into the furniture.”

I’m getting better, because I’m getting used to Baboo and learning her code. Sometimes, she wails and that means, “Pick me up right away. It’s a baby emergency!” Other times, she fusses a little and it means, “I would prefer to be cuddled right now, but I can actually wait.”

This morning, I made some chili in the Crock-Pot and she gritched from her chair the whole time.

“This baby is okay,” I told her, stirring the pan. “This baby is just fine.”

She gave me a dirty look, which is how I know she’s starting to understand me, too.

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The Baby Isn’t Eating…

…and as a result, my husband may need to be hospitalized.

Teething is painful, and not just for the baby. Apparently, sometimes when teething is happening, babies don’t eat.

This is a big problem, because babies are humans and humans need food in order to live. But it’s an especially big problem for our baby, because her father is Italian and for him, watching his child not eat is like he’s being physically stabbed all over his body. He actually clutched parts of himself — his stomach, his arms, great handfuls of hair — while beseeching her to eat.

At one point, he went outside to cry and vape and I had a talk with the baby.

“Listen,” I said. “You can’t do this to your father. He’s Italian. You have to eat or he will actually collapse.”

The baby farted.

Here, I’d like to say that it would really help if either she spoke English or we spoke Baboo. As it is, we’re having a lot of trouble communicating.

There’s good news, though: it turns out that if you have a nice pediatrician, it’s totally cool to call the office and ask them to call you back so that you can yell, “We’re in the parking lot of the Botanical Garden and the baby hasn’t eaten all day and we thought fresh air would help but she still won’t eat and now her cheeks are all pink from cold. And now we’re pretty sure our baby is starving and also has frostbite. What do we do?”

That was me, BTW. And I was the parent who was less upset. My husband was on the verge of disintegrating with anxiety in the backseat of the car, where he was clutching the baby to his chest.

The answer to my questions turned out to be: she doesn’t have frostbite, because it’s too warm out, just put some Vaseline on her cheeks, and give her Tylenol and feed her with a syringe if necessary. (But please, if your baby isn’t eating, call your own pediatrician and see what they say.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to feed my baby with a syringe and my husband with a highball glass.

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“Fuck this botanical garden fucking bullshit.”

Daily Schedule: 6 am – 10 pm: Survive

Every day that I’m home with Baboo, I do one thing.

It’s not the same thing. I don’t, like, have a secret to impart that will help you optimize your time with your baby. I’m just saying that when I look back on the day, I can get about one thing done in addition to the basic baby maintenance activities that are required.

Today I went to a moms’ group. Other days, I’ll vacuum or go grocery shopping. Still other days, I’ll wait until the baby falls asleep or becomes absorbed in something and steal a few minutes of work.

But I only ever get one thing done per day. A few times, I tried to do more than one thing, but I always wind up regretting it. So now I’ve solved all my parent problems by lowering my expectations.

OK, now add just one thing per day, because that’s all you get.

Like Taking Your Car to the Mechanic

This morning, I took Katie to open office hours at the pediatrician. That’s probably not what you call it. But to be honest, I haven’t had much sleep lately, so I’m too tired to look up the real name for the walk-in hours for sick kids.

I didn’t really think she was sick. I was just at my wit’s end. OK, I thought there was a chance that she had an ear infection. But I was pretty sure her symptoms — chewing her fist, crying, drooling, rubbing her nose and face — were signs of early teething. But I wanted to be sure.

Also, after sleeping through the night for months, she’s been getting up every four hours, ravenously hungry, so I thought maybe they’d let me put some rice cereal in her milk for her last feeding of the day, to keep her full longer.

Well, the good news is that she doesn’t have an ear infection. The bad news is that:

  • They don’t recommend giving rice cereal anymore, because it apparently has arsenic in it.
  • They don’t recommend giving any cereal before six months … five weeks from now.
  • The solution to her being hungry every four hours is to feed her every four hours.
  • We’ve been giving her Tylenol. We have to stop doing that. It’s okay, but only sparingly. We can use cold teething rings and frozen washcloths instead. Katie licked her teething ring when I offered it and looked at me like, “Come on, cough up the drugs.” It’s possible that I’m projecting.

She also cooed and giggled at the doctor like she didn’t have a care in the world. Fortunately, our lovely pediatrician assured me that this happens all the time — like when you bring your car to the mechanic and it won’t make that weird noise.

The other problem is that I am absolutely shattered with exhaustion. I got a two-hour nap yesterday, but otherwise, I’ve been running on four hours of broken sleep a night for weeks.

Why am I so tired? Well, because the miracle of science has shown that everything parents used to do to make parenting bearable — Tylenol, rice cereal, cosleeping, crying it out, etc. — is potentially dangerous. The only right answer is to get up every four hours and feed your baby and then sit up all night wide awake when she’ll only sleep on you.

Be sure you look your baby lovingly in the eye and engage with them positively once they awake, refreshed, in your weary, tendonitis-raddled arms. They can sense your negativity. And put down your phone, you whore. You’re probably irradiating your precious child.

Yesterday, I informed my husband calmly and coolly that the problem is that babies are giant jerks. Don’t get me wrong: I love ours. She’s amazing and beautiful and so sweet and my favorite person. But also I feel like she could be just a little more mature about all of this.

A Rough Week

I’m typing this on my phone with one thumb as a baby sleeps on my shoulder. So, it will either be nonsense or a model of economy a la Hemingway. Place your bets.

It’s been a rough week. Katie decided a few days ago that she was done breastfeeding. I can fool her into it first thing in the morning but otherwise, no dice. She screams at the sight of my boob. It’s like my nipple is menacing her.

I’ve gotten some good advice from La Leche pals and we’re trying everything, but I suspect the bottom line will be a lot less breastfeeding.

I wasn’t really ready. After swearing I’d never breastfeed at all, I’ve really come to enjoy it. I’m sad to think it might be coming to an end at just four months.

Plus, to be honest, I could really use the oxytocin. The sudden halt kind of dropped me on my ass hormonally. There’s a lot of crying (mine).

To make matters worse, I’m not getting much sleep. Katie still doesn’t really nap and she’s been waking up at night again. Last night, she woke up at 3 am and didn’t drop off again until 6. During that time, she wiggled in my arms, filling her sleep sack with farts while I pleaded with her to sleep.

Adam had to work today, so when he woke up at 5 am, he was greeted with the sight of his crazed wife, rocking the baby and whispering, “I can’t. I can’t. Oh God, please just sleep for an hour.”

That’s a fun way to wake up, right?

I know it’s just a phase and she’s so lovely and sweet and dear. But good gravy, this is hard in the meantime.

And I feel like it’s important to talk about, because we tend to see such carefully curated versions of early parenthood — fat babies blowing bubbles and grinning adorable, gummy smiles.

Just know that the lady behind the camera is probably thisclose to dropping her phone in the toilet or tripping over absolutely nothing … and then, since she’s down there, having a nice nap on the rug.

The Baby and I Have a Cold, So Today Is Cancelled

Are you sitting on your couch with your shirt off and tissues up your nose? If not, you’re really missing out. It’s what all the cool kids are doing today, and by the “cool kids,” I mean “me and my daughter.”

When I first had Katie, multiple people advised me to sleep when she slept, which proved difficult. In the first place, babies sleep unpredictably. A nap might last 15 minutes or four hours and there’s never any way to tell which kind of nap it is until it’s over.

Secondly, there’s lots to do around the house when you have a newborn. If we weren’t washing bottles, we were doing laundry.

But, as time goes on, I’m growing to like the spirit of that advice, which is: real life is cancelled for a while. Put on comfy clothes and find a spot on the couch.

Yesterday, I had a moment of ambition and decided to tidy up a bit. I got as far as removing three blankets, two spitup-stained shirts, and a pile of rank burp cloths from the couch. Once they were gone, I could see an exact outline of my butt in my favorite corner. The remotes were on the cushion beside my butt imprint. The sofa table behind my spot held three coasters, ringed with coffee, water, and seltzer respectively. It was very clear that I’ve been spending a lot of time here.

“Ugh, it’s like a nest,” I said to Adam, waving at the grimy blankets and butt imprint.

“Aw, it’s exactly a nest,” he said, looking teary, and then I looked again and saw it with different eyes.

It’s a nest and we’re in it. Outside, the woods are particularly dark and deep right now, but we’re as safe as it’s possible to be, and we have each other.

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to have a cold. Excuse me while I add another layer of blankets to our nest.

Babies Are Funny

At our last pediatrician appointment, the nurse asked me to fill out the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which measures the risk of postpartum depression. Fortunately, it wasn’t timed: even with Adam there, it took 20 minutes to fill out a single page in between diaper changes, baby soothing, diaper bag rearrangement, and so on.

The very first question stumped me:

 

I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things:

  • As much as I always could
  • Not quite so much now
  • Definitely not so much now
  • Not at all

 

“This is a problem,” I told Adam, showing him the sheet as he fiddled with the stroller. “We need another option.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. We need an option for, ‘This baby is fucking hilarious and I never stop laughing.'”

Babies are funny, you guys. I didn’t really know until I had one. It helps that I love fart jokes, and Baboo spends about half her time passing gas or pooping.

This afternoon, she shit all over her car seat. That might not strike you as hilarious, but you have to envision the full picture: she was asleep in her car seat in a puddle of shit, and she didn’t even open her eyes. She didn’t even move.

The day before, she screamed at me for five minutes because I put her in a swaddle and she couldn’t access her hands. Keep in mind that I tied her hands down to start because she kept smacking herself in the face while she was drifting off to sleep.

So, to sum up: sitting in her own shit? No problem. Temporary inability to poke herself in her own eye? UNACCEPTABLE.

Babies are funny. Get yourself a baby, and you can totally give up cable. When they’re sweet and giggly, you’ll be too entranced to need any other form of entertainment. And when they’re ridiculous, you’ll be laughing too hard. Also, you’ll be busy, probably cleaning up poop.