Baby Hab.: Months Three, Four, and Five in Review

August 7, 2012 § 4 Comments

I am quite a bit behind on this update, but it is not without reason. We have had a very busy few months with our Baby Hab. Robert is rocking our little one in preparation for bed. I have been out of the house for most of the past 48 hours, working doggedly in the library against Mother Nature’s better efforts to convince me to do otherwise. Today, for instance, the deluge began the moment Robert and I walked out the door, toting Melanie in her car seat. Robert dropped me off at the library, despite my every nerve twitching to just stay home, curl up with my cuddly baby in a blanket, and watch the Olympics. Once I trudged to the front door of the library, I found myself temporarily locked out–the power had just gone out. A magnanimous librarian opened the door for this drowned rat, and I soon found myself a table illuminated by an emergency light. I worked there for over an hour until the power came on and I could go to the graduate study room. The rain eventually stopped, the oppressive heat relented, and I emerged six hours later with a very nearly complete and revised dissertation. I hope to get the fully revised dissertation to my committee in the next week or so.

I am working on borrowed time, however; in fact, I have been attempting to write and rewrite this entry for three months. There is quite a lot of ground to cover, but I will unfortunately have to satisfy you with a swift rundown of our experiences, development, and accomplishments.

Month Three

Week Nine
–Melanie mimics facial expressions, makes eye contact, and smiles really big. There is obvious improvement every single day.
–She is baptized on April 21st at the same church her aunt and uncle (and godparents) were married. Of course…I got tearful.
–We try out using cloth diapers for the first time, thanks to our friend V.Dub and her generosity in letting us use some of her diapers, which we ultimately purchased because we loved them so much. (More on cloth diapering and our decision to do that later.)

Melanie smiles all the time, even if it’s not quite on command yet.

Week Ten
–She meets another playmate for the very first time; this playmate is literally 7 days younger than Melanie, which is really special. They were born in the same hospital, too!
–She has her 2-month doctor’s appointment, which most new mommies recognize as the dreaded vaccination appointment. Robert went with us, and he held Melanie while I averted my eyes. I felt like I was going to cry with her when she cried. But she really did great and didn’t catch wise to what was going on until the last two shots. We’re very proud of her.
–Melanie finds her hands and notices her fingers for the first time. She turned them over and over in front of her face and flexed her fingers. As the days progressed, she started to “share” her fingers with us by extending her arms toward our faces, too.
–Melanie makes eye contact and smiles from across the room; she starts to try to laugh when she smiles.
–She begins to babble and blow raspberries. She loves babbling to her hands the very most and gets so much delight from when Robert or I blow raspberries back to her.

She has discovered that her hands are good for many things, including self-soothing (sucking on her fingers), reaching for and grabbing at objects (even hair and glasses), and blocking her face when she doesn’t want her picture taken anymore.

Week Eleven
–Melanie laughs for the very first time while Robert holds her; he was talking about his day at work, and Mel just let out a great big laugh.
–Melanie’s aunt graduates from Pharmacy school as a Doctor of Pharmacy. Melanie attends graduation and sleeps peacefully the entire time–we were so proud of both my sister and Melanie that day!
–Robert’s mom babysits for us so that Robert and I could go out on a date. We saw The Avengers and went out to dinner.

Kissing on these feet has become one of my favorite new hobbies. She curls her toes so sweetly over my upper lip every time I kiss those sweet feet!

Week Twelve
–Melanie goes on her second trip to her grandma and grandpa who live out of town. Our car ride was incredibly eventful, complete with a blow-out poopy diaper (disposable, not cloth), and needing to pull over so she could nurse in a parking lot. It took us 4 hours for what used to be a 2-hour trip.
–She meets my oldest childhood friend; we grew up together as next-door neighbors and have known each other since I was 5 and she was 4. My parents, Robert, and I take Melanie on a walk in a local park.
–We celebrated my very first Mother’s Day. Melanie gave me a beautiful Willow Tree figurine, and Robert gave me several awesome macro filters and lens attachments. I might have gotten a little bit tearful when I read the cards from them.
–Melanie tries to roll over from her back to front and gets about 3/4 of the way there. Her bottom arm is always extended and therefore acts as a kickstand preventing her from making the full flip to her tummy.

Month Four

Week Thirteen
–Melanie meets my dissertation director for the first time at a lunch meeting we have with her. Melanie was very well behaved and was happy to let my professor hold her while I ate.
–Melanie finds her feet with her hands–now she loves grabbing on to them. She’ll be sucking those toes soon enough!
–Melanie goes to the lake with me, Robert, and his parents for the first time. We will not have any outdoor or water play for a while, but she enjoyed sitting on the screened-in porch with us and rocking.
–She starts to “stand” with assistance on our laps, and she looks so very proud of herself when she does it
–Robert and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary

Thinking really hard about how she will one day stand on her own. (I look forward to seeing more of this thoughtful face as she gets older.)

Week Fourteen
–Robert’s mom babysits again for us so that Robert and I could enjoy a nice anniversary dinner out.
–Melanie goes to the lake for a second time and meets even more of Robert’s family; again, no outdoor or water activities for her yet.
–I try to get Melanie to start napping independently in her bedroom. She’s not so keen on it. Neither am I.

Her smile brightens my whole day. It is so kind, sincere, and loving. I such peace and confidence when she smiles at me.

Week Fifteen
–Robert is away for the weekend, leaving me alone with Melanie for more than a single day for the first time. I take her to a local park for walks and photo shoots.
–We celebrate Robert’s birthday by going to his office to have lunch with him. Melanie is extremely well behaved and lets the waitresses hold onto her while Robert and I ate at this teeny little cafe. Only in the country, folks. Only in the country.

Strike a pose and vogue, baby!

Week Sixteen
–We go to my parents’ house, and Melanie actually sleeps for the entire two-hour drive, which is encouraging. She did so well that we were able to arrive with very little incident at all.
–Melanie rolls over for the first time. First, she rolls from tummy to back and cries because she bumps her little noggin on the (carpeted) floor. It was a little bit of a surprise to her; she just happened to push with one of her arms, and there she went! Twenty minutes later, she flipped over from her back to her tummy. This was a less traumatic roll.
–She notices the animals and smiles at them. Just before she turns 4 months old, she actually pets Beatrice for several minutes while Bea-Bea attempts to nap on my lap. Beatrice was very well-behaved and patient with Melanie’s not-so-gentle petting.

Demonstrating how she has mastered tummy time–she holds herself up much better now, which facilitates the whole rolling over thing.

Month Five

Week Seventeen
–We celebrate Father’s Day on June 17th by going to the park for a Daddy-Daughter photo shoot with Mommy! Both of my subjects were adorable, particularly Melanie who looked perfect in her little “1st Father’s Day” onesie. The onesie was a surprise for Daddy–I dressed her that morning and presented her to him while he opened his gifts. After the photo shoot, we went to brunch at one of our favorite new local restaurants. Then we came home and just relaxed and napped for the rest of the afternoon. I think he was pretty happy with his whole day. 🙂
–Melanie and Annie have become pretty good friends–now when Annie licks on Melly, she just laughs and laughs. Mommy tries to shove the dog away, but it doesn’t bother Melanie one bit.

Can you believe how grown I am already?

Week Eighteen
–Melanie has her 4-month appointment and booster shot visit. She fell asleep during our doctor’s appointment, and had to be woken up for the shots. It was a cruel thing to wake up for. 😦 My heart broke a little bit while we held her down on the table, but being able to comfort her afterward was comforting to me, too.
–The pediatrician gives us the green light to introduce Melanie to solids, starting with rice cereal. She has her very first rice cereal on June 25th. She doesn’t like it very much, but she did a good job while I presented the spoon to her. Apparently in the beginning, it isn’t as important that they get calories from the little bit of rice cereal they manage to swallow. Instead, the goal is to teach them how to take food off a spoon and to get used to new textures in their mouth.

I’m just such a happy girl!

Week Nineteen
–For the first week of July, we went on a road trip to visit V and her husband. It was a long drive, so we broke up the travel days into two legs, stopping halfway on the fourth of July. We went to a local park to take in their celebration. It was over 100 degrees, so we only stayed a little over an hour and a half. Melanie started to cry, even though we were doing our best to keep her comfortable. It was just too oppressive. After walking around the park a little bit and enjoying the music while we there, we took our cue from the baby and left before the fireworks started. We went to a local restaurant instead, and then we went back to our hotel to watch the Macy’s fireworks display on television. The heat made us all three pass out before our normal bedtime, but we needed it. Melanie surprised us by sleeping comfortably in her travel cradle through the whole night.

My mommy is so funny!

Week Twenty
–We were with V and her husband for three and a half days, and it was a much needed visit. Melanie loved meeting her Aunt V for the first time, and we had a great time watching V’s husband and brothers play basketball in their local league. It was Melanie’s first sporting event and she did awesome! She actually watched the action of the game, moving her head back and forth to watch the ball.
–Melanie became even more adept at rolling over from her tummy to her back, this time controlling her neck so that she didn’t bump her noggin on the landing.
–When we got back home after our trip, we introduced Melanie to her very first veggie–zucchini puree, made by Mommy in the Baby Bullet! She likes it so much better than the rice cereal. We feed her a little bit of the solids twice a day–zucchini at lunch and rice cereal before bed. She still nurses (or has formula, depending if we are out in public or not) for her primary nutrition, but she is starting to really get a handle on this spoon-feeding thing!
–Melanie is also improving on her independent napping schedule (so am I). We are much more consistent, and I think that has been helping. She has been able to consistently take long naps (90 minutes or longer) in her crib after lunch for a couple of days now.
–On the day she turned five months old, Melanie and I were sitting on the floor together. Next thing I knew, she went from sitting like a froggy (with her hands on the floor between her legs) to just sitting up! She did start to lean over and landed back on me after several moments, but we are so proud that she’s reached this milestone. It really feels like she has met a bunch of milestones in rapid succession lately!

She practically looks like she wants to hop, doesn’t she?

As Melanie reached her fifth month on July 17th, I came to realize that we had really started to find our rhythm as a family. I know there will be more challenges along the way, but these past couple of weeks in particular have been some of the best I have ever experienced. Melanie is a joy, a gift, and a blessing. I can only hope that one day she will feel the same about herself.

Baby Hab.: Month Two in Review

May 1, 2012 § 12 Comments

Robert holds our ten-week old miracle in both arms, one of his hands wrapped around both of hers. She gazes deep into his eyes, occasionally thrusting her tongue out in an attempt to mimic his mouth while he talks to me. She loves these moments with her daddy, and secretly so do I. It is one thing to see one’s boyfriend as a fiancé. Then, it is another thing to see him as a husband, waiting in anticipation for his bride to make it down the aisle. But to see that man as a father is just as miraculous as the little life we created together eleven months ago.

Mommy went a little wild with the outfit this month: hot pink stripes plus a black and white polka dot tutu!

Before we get to Melanie’s incredible development, here is a quick list of my experiences in Month Two:

1. Lost an additional four pounds. As of March 29th, I was down a total of 33 pounds just a little over two months after my baby was born. That’s six pounds over the total weight I gained. Funny enough, though, I am not sure I feel proud of this accomplishment because I am still scared that one day my milk will just dry up. It’s an irrational fear, but it’s a fear nonetheless. I am insecure about the new shape my body has taken. The shape my body was before my belly swelled seems to have migrated back toward my rear so that now I have extra padding on my ass in addition to a deflated belly. I can wear my prepregnancy clothing, but I don’t feel happy with the way I look in it.

Despite the crazy wardrobe choice, Melanie is all smiles!

2. Mel comes with me to Mass for the first time. I took Melanie to Mass on Palm Sunday, March 25th. She slept on my shoulder the entire time. I am not sure she even knew what happened by the time we got back in the car. She has been to Mass with me and Robert every week since; sometimes her aunt and uncle come, too. Some Sundays are better than others (there was a particularly terrible Sunday when she pooped all over Robert right at the beginning of Mass).

Melanie is growing out of her newborn features and really coming into her infant ones. I think I'm happy about that....

3. Confidence fluctuations. Throughout the second month, I experienced a jagged climb in my confidence levels. Some days were better than others, but overall my confidence had improved between weeks five and eight. I think the one activity I grew most confident in was bathing her. Losing the umbilical stem was extremely helpful with that, too, because I could finally give her a bath in her infant tub.

Melanie is beginning to stir from her evening nap, so I’m officially on borrowed time. Here is a brief list of Melanie’s accomplishments and developmental milestones throughout this month…plus pictures!

Week Five
–Melanie plays and smiles on activity mat; Annie the Nanny stands guard (3.18.12)
–Makes eye contact and smiles on purpose; pediatrician tells us her social skills are advanced because these behaviors develop on average in the seventh or eighth weeks (3.23.12)

Melanie started to play independently after I bought her a bright pink activity mat. It plays music as well as funny sounds--Mel loves musical toys!

I call this her "for the love of God, woman, stop taking pictures and pay attention to your baby" look.

Week Six
–Develops the “tired” cry
–Tries to push up on arms when she’s on her belly, particularly when we are holding her

Week Seven
–Visits Daddy’s office (4.6.12)
–Has her very first Easter (4.8.12)

Look what the Easter Bunny brought Melanie for her first Easter! A duck, a lamb, and a pinwheel! Don't tell Ducky, but Melanie loves Lambie the very best.

Sebastian, my sister's Shih Tzu, cuddles close as Melanie gets her bottle on Easter Sunday.

Week Eight
–Begins to mimic facial expressions and derives great delight from a successful mime (especially sticking out her tongue)
–Practices laughing in her sleep

It is so difficult to believe that Melanie is nearly three months old by the time I’m writing her post about Month Two. Time is flying by, but we are soaking up every moment of every day.

As we start to see her personality develop, I just hope she will grow up to be as kind-hearted as she looks. Her smiles genuinely warm my heart and ease my insecurities.

Baby Hab.: Month One in Review

April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

My six-week-old infant woke me at 4 a.m. to nurse after an already restless night. Two restless nights in a row, to be precise. I am exhausted; my body feels used up. But I nurse her anyway. By 5 a.m., she is fed and changed, but she is also awake and alert. I put her in her Fisher Price swing, a gift we inherited from a couple whose daughters have outgrown it, and whisper a prayer under my breath. She won’t fall asleep in spite of the click-clacking motor of the swing and the side-to-side motion designed to imitate Mommy’s swaying.

Now is the perfect time to share with you her development from Month One. I have been wanting to write this entry for a long time, at least since March 16th. But with no time to devote to sitting in front of the laptop (much to my dismay and to the detriment of my dissertation’s progress), I have resorted to jotting down notes in my phone so that I wouldn’t forget important milestones. They say this baby thing gets easier with time. After six weeks, I’m beginning to think “they” are wrong. Or that maybe I’ve done something wrong. But I’m still holding out hope.

During the first four weeks of Melanie’s life, I underwent my own developmental shifts. I plan to write more detailed posts about my issues later, but in short my changes from February 16 to March 16 were:

1. Sudden and total weight loss. Don’t be jealous of me, friends. This contributed to the second item on my list. Throughout my pregnancy, I gained a total of 27 pounds. My weight gain was deliberate because I am an obese woman, and everything I had read recommended that obese women not gain more than 30 pounds. This recommendation is in order to prevent gestational diabetes (although I later found out that if you are going to get gestational diabetes, you’ll get it regardless of your weight gain and diet) and in order to assure that the baby develops well. So, I gained 27 pounds, and I was proud of that number. Two weeks later, I went to my postpartum check-up and discovered I had lost 29 pounds. I did nothing extreme. I ate like I had always eaten, and there has been no time for exercise. I literally did nothing to lose the weight. And here’s why you should be neither impressed nor jealous by my unintended weight loss.

2. Poor milk production. I have been breastfeeding Melanie, which likely contributes a great deal to my weight loss. But because I was no longer eating like I was pregnant (again, not intentionally…I literally had lost my appetite and struggled to consume the same quantities I had only two weeks previous), I was not taking in the amount of calories I needed, yet I was burning more calories than ever before. My body could not keep up with the demands of my precious baby because I was not fueling it with calories in order to produce milk. So my milk failed to come in…until Day 16. I spent those first 15 days sobbing, feeling like an utter failure, like a terrible and inadequate mother. What kind of mother can’t even go into labor or feed her baby? I’ll address these issues later, but suffice to say, those first two weeks were particularly difficult for me. But not everything was bad news for the brand-new Mama Hab.

3. The distinction between cries. Speaking to my friends who had newborns and infants, they all swore up and down that babies’ cries are distinguishable from one another. Good news for a little one who is as of yet nonverbal! As with most things in my early days of parenthood, my insecurities did not allow me to believe my friends’ claims. But sure enough, within a few days, I had mastered Melaniese. “A-wah, a-wah, wah wah wah” was hunger. “Ehhhh-uh-ehhhh” was a wet diaper. “Aaaaaahhh” was boredom or general dissatisfaction with the state of her limited world. Now that we are going into her second month, Melanie has even developed a tired cry which sounds similar to the hungry cry except that it tapers off into a whine rather than crescendoing into ear-piercing shrieks.

As far as my development was concerned, Month One was filled with tears and insecurities. Month Two has been an improvement so far, but there are still those tearful and insecure moments.

Melanie, of course, grew by leaps in bounds in that too-short month.

Such a serious girl. Month One was all about the serious, studious face. Eyebrows creased, mouth pursed in concentration.

Week One
Melanie’s weight fluctuated wildly. She was born at 8 pounds 15 ounces, all of it in her long long legs. By the time we were discharged 48 hours later (Saturday), she was down to 8 pounds 5 ounces (normal). By the time we went in for her five-day check on Monday (where they check weight and jaundice levels), Melanie was down to 7 pounds 10 ounces. She had lost more than a pound. This was not normal, and she was technically classified as “failure to thrive.” We returned to the hospital on Tuesday for another weight check. She had gained 4 ounces after receiving both breast milk and formula supplement with each feeding. I felt like I was failing, too, even though a gain was good news. Two days later, when she was a full week old, she was only at 8 pounds. Most babies have at least returned to their birth weight within seven days.

Week Two
Robert was still on paternity leave, and I was still struggling with a lack of sufficient milk. I was pumping and feeding around the clock. My breasts felt normal–I had no engorgement. I felt like the worst, most incapable mother in the world. My baby continued to hover around the 8 pound mark. Robert returned to work 14 days after Melanie was born, and I returned to the hospital for an updated weight check. She had only gained an ounce in a week, according to the machine. Newborns are supposed to gain an ounce to two ounces a day when they are very young. I called my mom, sobbing uncontrollably, and she fervently encouraged me to stop going to the lactation specialist at the hospital and take Melanie to her pediatrician instead. I called the pediatrician and made an appointment to be seen the next morning.

Week Three
On Friday, March 2, I took Melanie to see her pediatrician. I was exhausted–Melanie had nursed relentlessly the night before and was still begging for more food. I forgot to bring a bottle with me (still learning, at that point, how to pack my diaper bag), so I ended up nursing her in the exam room while I waited to be seen. A pediatric nurse weighed Mel, and we were delighted to see that she weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces. This was still not the ideal weight, and she was still classified as “failure to thrive,” so the pediatrician gave her a good physical exam. Our pediatrician is the kindest, most encouraging, supportive doctor I have ever met. I must have looked harried, haggard, and worn. He made eye contact with me every time he said, “You are doing great.” I asked him how she could have gained seven ounces in a single day, and he assured me that there was probably a problem with the machine at the hospital. Although he still had to classify Melanie as “failure to thrive,” he promised that it was just a medical classification and that he believed Melanie was surviving well. He encouraged me to focus on the upward trend of her weight gain and not on the specific numbers themselves. In two weeks, she had gone from 7 pounds 10 ounces to 8 pounds 8 ounces. That was a victory in his book.

The next day, my milk finally came in. I awoke that morning feeling like I had just gone through puberty again–my breasts were tender (not painful, though) and there were a couple of small wet spots on my shirt. Robert and I celebrated–I nursed the hungriest baby in the world and Robert went out to get us a delicious breakfast. I pumped an incredible 4 ounces, an impressive improvement from the ounce and a half I would normally manage to produce. That same day, my mom (who is also a pediatric nurse) came to stay for an extended time (seven days). She cleaned our house top to bottom, and it needed it. I cried three of the four days she cleaned the house, just out of sheer exhaustion and embarrassment. But my mom was incredibly sweet about it and encouraged me to focus on my daughter, while she took care of her own daughter. Every moment I felt like giving up on breastfeeding, she was there to support me and tell me to keep trying. “The more you nurse, the more your milk will come in. You’re telling your body that it needs to produce milk through the physical stimulation that Melanie provides.” She was right. And I was so grateful for her encouragement.

Week Four
Mom and I took Melanie to the pediatrician for her next weight check the following Friday, March 9th. This day was such a victory. Melanie weighed 9 pounds 4 ounces! Mom and I did the happy dance with Melanie right there in the doctor’s office. She wasn’t quite in the range that a baby with her birthweight would be in at 22 days, but she had certainly improved greatly. It was better than we could have hoped for. I called Robert while he was at work, and we shared one of the most heartfelt laughs we had shared since she was born. Mom went back home the next day, and I sobbed again. Robert suggested we go to my parents’ house the next weekend, which is exactly what we did. Mom mobilized the family (most of whom had not yet met the baby), and we were able to have a little party on St. Patrick’s Day…but that was the beginning of Month Two, so more on that later. The day Melanie turned one month old, her umbilical stump fell off–this was a milestone I was relieved to meet. No more yucky sponge baths on the kitchen counter. Now my baby could actually sit in her infant tub (which has a little sling for newborns who aren’t yet holding up their heads) and enjoy a bath with more water. For the first time in her short life, Melanie was able to have a bath without shrieking and tears.

Although the majority of Month One was focused on Melanie’s weight, here are some of the great little milestones she reached:

1. Lifts and turns her head side-to-side (week two)
2. Makes eye contact and spends more time alert (week three)
3. Reaches for nearby objects like toys, glasses, and hair (week three)
4. Begins cooing to toys (weeks three/four)
5. Umbilical stump falls off (week four, 3.16.12)

As I have composed this blog post, I have been aware that I have done so on borrowed time. I have put the post down three times and picked it up four times. At 10 a.m., more than 24 hours after beginning it, I have finally finished this post…right on time for Melanie to complain of a wet diaper.

In spite of the sheer and utter exhaustion, the strain raising a baby puts on my body, my psyche, and my marriage…in spite of it all, I couldn’t be any happier than I am right now. And who could blame me?

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