Friday, July 30, 2010

Spectacular Vernacular

So, we've finally captured a sample of Ila's dialect. It's difficult to explain the sounds...they're some coos, some squeaks...but there are these other sounds I don't know how to describe. I'm not even sure I could replicate them myself.

One of my favorite aspects of this new more socially communicative Ila is that when she's done interacting - when she needs a break - she turns her head away and refuses to look at you. This is apparently a common tactic babies take when they need a break from stimuli...but it's still amusing to see, like she's saying, "Look away! I'm done with you." Very diva-ish, I mean "diva" in the Diane Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway sense.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Smiles Times

"Make hay while the sun shines"...or, in my case, "update blog while the baby sleeps." Given these two situations, I could make a lot more hay than blog posts. Seriously, it took me about four days to write one email this week. Baby pace is just a slower pace, I suppose. While this is sometimes a little frustrating (and embarrassing, as in the case of the message it took me a month to respond to), this phase really is very short. So, I am trying to soak up as much of this bizarre tiny infant period as possible.

In keeping with this, I've started taking short videos of Ila - trying to catch her crazy drunken smiles and weird alien speech. It's adorable and, though I am not an objective judge here, I think quite fascinating and watchable...but she does not like to perform for the camera at all. I could pretend this has something to do with a personality characteristic - she's shy! she's stubborn! - but I'm not really sure I can tell anything about her from this. I think she clams up when the camera appears because my focus has changed. I'm not as available and focused on communicating with her...and she responds accordingly, focusing herself on the camera or some other object. It's wild how in tune babies are with their caregivers. Ila really does seem extremely zeroed in on you if you are actually cooing and talking to her. If not, she looks elsewhere.

The other fascinating thing is that Ila really does stare at the camera. When it comes out, her eyes go right to it. I am not so sure what is draws her attention. Maybe because I'm looking at it? Maybe because the lens looks like one great eye? But she does go right to it...I guess that will make getting pictures of her smiley face easier...once she will actually smile more regularly for the camera, that is.

I did finally get a few little snippets of video. I can't believe how much more verbal - I'm sort of playing fast and loose with the term "verbal" here - she's gotten in the last week. She makes all kinds of cooing, rowling, squawking sounds. Sometimes when I'm singing to her, she really gets her crazy watery squealing going, like she's singing her own slightly demented version of the song. It's hysterical...and extremely cute...and, again, something she won't really let me capture on camera. I've gotten a little bit of the noisy Miss Ila, but I'll keep trying to get the real show.

It's very exciting to notice these big new developments - like socially smiling and gurgling. I can't wait for grabbing and laughing and rolling over and sitting up. In many ways, she'll be a little more fun...certainly we will have more luck finding hobbies in common. And then it will be crawling, walking, talking, running. Crazy...and exciting. Still, though I look forward to all this growth, a weird part of me gets sad that this little goofy no-neck baby phase will be over so soon. I guess I should just enjoy each infant era while it lasts. (Let's see if I can think this when I'm nursing her tomorrow morning at 3 AM).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Sleep

Advice on the sleep of infants - how to induce it, particularly - is a topic that is of relative usefulness. By "relative" I mean some of it is helpful for some babies some of the time. Which words of wisdom may be relevant to your child at any particular developmental point is kind of anyone's guess since so much of what is written is wildly varied and often entirely contradictory to other pieces of advice. So, advice is perhaps something best avoided for parents on this subject. Yet questions about how your baby is sleeping are some of the first questions that come pouring forth from friends and family.

We are fortunate enough to have a fairly restful baby (at night anyway), but I still find the questions a little irritating. For one thing, when people ask how long she slept the night before, and I say a four to five hour chunk of sleep and then about an hour to two hours after being fed, some people balk as if that's not a great bit of sleep. It IS, folks! God, the first week of sleeping only an hour at a time was like some kind of torture. This is amazing! I'm trying to enjoy this because at any given moment, she could go back to sleeping in only little two hour stretches...or less! For some reason, the constant focus on "when will baby sleep through the night" is irksome. Realistically, infants and small children just sleep differently than adults...I am trying to just accept that. I guess I don't like resisting that fact...and, I don't know, imagining it is going to be wildly different soon. So, I'm not crazy about people reminding me that I'm NOT sleeping, say a solid 8 hours.

There are helpful tips, though. For instance, the oft given advice "sleep when your baby sleeps" is generally helpful. In fact, we could just say, when you become a parent, become a napper. Even a "night napper" as Kiyomi calls the style of sleep you get at night with a baby. When I can nap with Ila during the day for at least one stretch, I feel much better. That being said, trying to nap at the same time as your infant can be an exercise in torture. Once you are awake for the day, you've adjusted to a certain degree of tiredness. That is, you're resigned to being vertical and conscious. With this resignation comes a degree of comfort, at least you're not in that half-state of trying to wake up. As soon as you lay down to nap, you lower these defenses...and become very, very sleepy. If your child actually naps for a while - GREAT, you also get some sleep. If your child naps for twenty minutes...well, you will have to go through that miserable process of adjusting to being upright and awake all over again. If you can have a partner take care of the truant napper in case they run out on the sleeping session, then it works well. However, that means your partner has to drop whatever they are doing.

This week Ila is sleeping for what feels like tiny bits of time during the day...and longer at night. I try to focus on the "longer at night" bit of that statement. However, I wonder if this micro-sleeping is going to extend to the night soon. Should I look at what the books say? I think we know the answer to that...but just for fun! One book tells me that this is normal because, as she gets older, she will be more wakeful. Another book says if she's not sleeping enough during the day, she won't sleep for long at night. A third book - the one I'd like to believe - says that babies that are fed often on cue rather than a schedule and are held most of the time are more likely to cat nap during the day and sleep for longer stretches at night. God in heaven, please let this be the case. I'm just going to keep going by her cues...trying to get her to sleep when she's sleepy...and hoping that this is enough. Hopefully it will keep going well. Whichever way it goes, though, I promise to not give anyone any kind of advice based on it. Really. I promise.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ain't No Holla Back Girl

There is something inescapably now about having an infant. As one who sometimes wishes to avoid the Now...and, say, daydream about the future, analyze the past, or even obsessively construct plans for the future based on strategies I think I understand from my past, I am not always loving this whole in the present moment with the tiny baby thing.

Actually, mostly these days (I can only speak in a very limited time frame) I am feeling okay with it. The first couple weeks with, though, were rough. I found myself, at random moments during the day, gripped by a thought that this is it - this endless cycle of nursing, putting the baby to sleep, trying to assess what the baby wants and then nursing again, etc. all over again. This thought was, of course, accompanied by a terrible feeling of confinement. To be fair, this is a sensation that I've experienced at pretty much every job I've ever had. It's just that this particular job doesn't include legally outlined breaks and vacation or sick days, really. No ducking out or rashly deciding, after a dull day at work, to say "fuck it!" to going to the gym and "boy howdy" to getting a beer with a friend.

It is natural to feel this massive adjustment, I assume. To balk a little at the radical shift your days take after having a baby. To be honest, I feel pretty lucky. I feel like Ila isn't an extraordinarily demanding baby...and I also feel pretty content going through the repetitive little motions of each day, capable of reminding myself this is a phase and that I should enjoy Ila while she's tiny.

In that vein, I really am trying to notice as much as I can about her now. (In fact, sometimes I feel little pangs of sadness that she's changing - and going to change - so fast that I'll somehow miss some of it. It's weirdly a sensation of missing her when she's right in front of me.) For instance, she is getting more and more opinonated. She has started screeching and hollering when I try to nurse her when she's not hungry - or when she's gotten enough food. She throws her head back, turns red in the face, and yells. I was completely floored by this at first...I thought something was wrong. However, having paid attention, I've decided that sometimes I think she may be hungry when she's not. Instead of a polite refusal - however that would look in infantese - she screams about it. Fortunately, the screaming stops immediately when I just sit her upright or lie her down next to me.

It has taken some getting used to. At first, I was a little hurt - my breasts couldn't help but take it personally. However, now, I am trying to find some amusement in it. I mean, imagine being offered food when you're not hungry and instead of simply refusing it, you curse the person who offered it to you and throw the plate at the wall? It is absurd...but I guess everything is a little crazy when the only real way you have to communicate is screams and shrieks at varying volume levels. I can't wait for more cooing and smiling. These two things have started a little...but the grunting and hollering is still the preferred dialect. Isn't it funny that we all learn to scream and groan long before we learn to smile? It's supposedly for our survival...which, I think, says a lot about our species.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Second Month Begins

It is officially the start of Ila's second month of life - outside the womb. Perhaps this is admitting that I am incapable of the simple task of counting, but I am not exactly sure how we delineate the whole month thing. It seems that four weeks, in infant land, counts as a month. In adult land, the only month that is actually only four weeks long is that rascal February. So, today being July 1st (Happy Canada Day!), I can, with confidence say that it is, at least, the start of her second calendar month. Whew.

So far, in her first month of life, she has been a calm baby. Now that we're in the second month, I worry that colic will rear its ugly head...and suddenly my baby will be a whole new creature. One that screams and weeps and hollers for hours inconsolably. I may be jinxing us, but I really am amazed at how easy-going she seems. She does cry - but is usually very easily placated. She's hungry or wants to walk around the house or sit on your lap facing out (this is her favorite thing - she really likes to sit upright and gaze out...with her only semi-focusing infant eyes) or she is tired and needs to be helped toward sleep. Babies change so much in the first year, though, so who knows what's going to happen? (Hence my apprehension.)

She is definitely getting more vocal - she will get pissed and holler when something really does not agree with her. One of the most common - and sort of amusing - times that this happens is when she is nursing. She has, of course, no real control of her limbs. They just flail or loll about without much direction from her. She often throws her arm around at the start of a nursing session, sometimes bumping herself off the nipple with her own arm. Then, she screeches furiously and turns tomato red with anger. I quickly put her back on and try to restrain her arm...but I am often using both my hands to arrange and hold her to the breast at the start of a nursing session. So, sometimes she manages to bump herself off the breast a couple times. It is kind of funny - does that make me an insensitive mother? - except at 3 AM when I just want her to clamp on and get down to business.

Also, if she was a little worked up at the start or before nursing, she'll also grumble while she starts to nurse. This is entertaining, too. She is actively sucking and, at the same time, making a little gritching complaint sound in her she wants me to know she's not quite over it yet. That I need to know she does not approve of how this all went down, and I should work harder to get it right next time.

All of this is only amusing because she really doesn't ever cry for very long - and is very responsive to our attempts to comfort or distract her. We really have found Harvey Karp's five S's - from the ridiculously named The Happiest Baby on the Block - to be helpful. We do the loud shushing in her ear all the time when she starts to fuss. It's sort of amazing - her eyes get wide, and she stops wailing usually immediately so that she can listen intently - like there's some secret message she needs to catch in its entirety. Swaddling also really helps her calm down. She'll often wiggle and wriggle to free an arm, but she is instantly calmer when she gets swaddled.

Again, I feel, in typing all this that I am cursing us, that Ila will throw all this placidity off and shake herself into a roarin' and wailin' baby who is not comforted by anything. I suppose one take home message in all of this is how little control I have...I just have to accept that I have no idea how this little being will change...and how our days will unfold. I feel like I've typed this sentiment about 50 times in this makes for serious redundancy...but I guess that's the deal with life lessons: there are, like, three and you just learn them over and over. We'll see...