Tuesday, December 27, 2011

milestones or mileSTRESSES???

I'm all aflutter...and not in a good way.
I've always thought of myself as pretty independent and certainly not one to do things simply because other people were doing them. I think I've chosen a pretty unique lifestyle, and that in order to live this life, I can't be too much like a lot of other people. So WHY do I care all of a sudden when other babies are doing things before mine? I'm perfectly happy with a stationary baby who doesn't seem too interested in getting places - it just means more time for me to do what I need to and not worry about what he's getting into.  But I am starting to get a smidge concerned that he's only rolled over one way twice and that was several weeks ago. I'm worried that he HATES tummy time and will only lift his head to 90 degrees on a whim. I'm worried that he's not sitting up yet. And can I mention that I HATE HATE HATE "What to Expect The First Year"?  Arggg! All of the "should be"s and "probably"s are driving me up a wall!
So Finn has his own timetable - big deal! Why the heck should I worry? I'm sure moms around the world constantly compare their kids to each other and secretly fret about who's doing what when. I just honestly didn't think I'd be that kind of mom. To be honest, I didn't think I'd need to be since my child is OBVIOUSLY going to be super advanced for his age. Ha.
If motherhood has taught me anything thus far, it's that I can fully expect this kiddo to do exactly the opposite of what I expect.
I expected a home birth, got a hospital one.
I expected an overdue baby, I got one three weeks early.
I expected a huge, strapping baby, I got a wee one.
I expected him to be in the 100th percentile or off the charts, but he's hanging out in the 50-75% range.
I expected a child I could mold to my own heart's desires, not counting on him having his own personality or his own heart's desires.
I expected a happy, cheerful infant, I got colic.
I expected overachieving, I'm not getting it.
And all of this because I just love him like crazy. I want him to be OK. I want him to be healthy. The little dude's got his first cold this week over Christmas!  :(  And literally, you'd think the world had ended. I'm such a stressball about every cough, every sneeze, and his poor little watery eyes. I just want to DO SOMETHING for him to make it all better, but I can't and it's driving me crazy. WHAT IF the reason he's not hitting his milestones is because something bigger is going on. If I can barely keep myself together while he has a measly cold, how do I deal with anything else?

Luckily, I have a little voice in my head who smacks some sense into me at these junctures:
OK, get a grip, Sarah. He's fine. He's healthy, he's freaking adorable, and he's a joy to have in your life. Pull it together and enjoy this amazing time. It won't last forever, and you don't want to waste it all worrying about him. He is who he is and will get there in his own time.

Arg, that is all. Thanks for listening.
Here's the dude with his Grampa  on Christmas :) Man, he's even cute when he's sick.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Phew, where does the time go?
It's been an interesting few weeks here in Finn-land (hahaha, yeah, I said it).  I sort of realized after the last post that I was basically having an existential dilemma - I was making a decision that dealt with what kind of life I want to lead.  Essentially, the question was do I want to let others make my decisions for me, or do I want to take the reins on my own life? One of the reasons we moved back to Vinalhaven was because of the sort of life we wanted to lead. I think I just got overwhelmed and afraid and lost track of the big picture. I don't want to have to go back to work for less that what I'm worth, and if and when I do go back, I want flexibility. I'm not really willing to compromise on those two issues, and am extremely lucky that I don't have to.  Within the week or so between deciding to apply for the bank job and hearing back from them with an offer, four other jobs fell into my lap that
a) paid better
b) were much more flexible
the result - I can buy and pay for my OWN health care plan with the new jobs, work fewer hours, avoid paying for child care, and make my own schedule.  If I had taken the bank job, I would have been at work three full time days a week and would have paid 60% of my insurance premium. With the money they offered me, I wouldn't even have broken even - I would have had to pay another $120 per month to take care of child care and the insurance premium. In other words, I would have had to pay to work there. 

I've noticed in my life, particularly recently, that when I really need something, I get it. The past year has been a whirlwind - getting pregnant, leaving my job in England, moving back to the States, having Finn - but I think that once we made the right decision, everything fell into place.

I'm so happy - life is good.  That doesn't mean that everything is perfect every hour of every day, but I have absolutely everything I need and so much more.

In other news, Finn went to the Medical Center last week and seems to be thriving - I guess he must be getting some nourishment, even though it all seems to be coming back up.  I swear, this kid is like a puke fountain sometimes. Sorry - that's not the most pleasant image is it?

So here's a much nicer image to leave you with- funny to think that a year ago, I was less than a month pregnant, and now I have no idea what my life was like without him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Catch 22

So I've recently started this job as the director of a non-profit. It's awesome. I love it. I have flexible hours and can work from home. I like the people I get to work with, and everything his pretty much hunky dory.
However, things aren't about to be hunky dory anymore. Throughout my pregnancy, delivery (thank God!), and the first few months of Finn's life so far, we've been on state health insurance. We qualified when we moved back, but now that I've got this job and Chad's working more than we expected, we're not going to qualify for it again, and that means as of January, none of us is going to have insurance. Now, I honestly couldn't care less if I have insurance or not. I'm youngish and healthy and don't engage in dangerous activities anymore (like, for example, when I was a carpenter). 
I most certainly want Finn to have insurance. He's going to be going to the doctor pretty regularly for well child visits for the forseeable future, and if he's anything like I was as a child, he'll have his share of not-so-well visits also.
I also really want insurance for Chad, who is working as a carpenter and uses his body in a pretty rough way. He'll likely be hurting himself, even being as careful as he is - things happen.
In addition to all of this, we're looking to buy our first house next year and have our eye on a few in town...AND we really want to start saving for retirement. We're both in our early 30s, but I feel like we're behind and need to shake a leg.

Enter an ad I saw in the paper this week - a position for a part time teller at the bank has opened up. Even for part time employees, the bank will pay 40% of the premium for health insurance for an employee and the employee's family. The bank also matches any deposits made into a 401k by the employee. This all sounds really tempting, but I have to say it kind of pisses me off.  Let me explain:

If we signed up for health insurance on our own right now, it would be over $1000/month with a $10,000 deductible. There is no possible way for us to take care of the health of our family without being completely cost-prohibitive. I just don't understand why I could visit any doctor anywhere in the UK and it was compltely free, but here, I have to go bankrupt just trying to get our basic care taken care of.

If I take on this job, I'd be spending 24 hours per week away from my son, not to mention the time that I'm already spending as director of the non-profit. If I send him to day care, I'll pretty much be tossing my paycheck every week away on child care, which means I wouldn't really be able to put any money in that 401k I'm so keen to start, AND I'll only have 40% of my insurance taken care of, which means I'm responsible for 60%...that means all the money I make working at the bank would take care of insurance and child care.
So really, it would be better if I hadn't taken my 12-15 hour per week totally satisfying job, which would have put us under the income cut-off for insurance and stayed home with my child.   WHY are we getting punished for making a contribution to society, rather than sitting on our laurels collecting state aid?  WHY isn't there a reasonably-priced insurance plan that we can buy into as hard-working individuals who just want to make a living?
And then I watch the news and see all of the Republican candidates talking about how they're going to repeal "Obamacare", my only hope for a way to take care of the health of my family. 
Thanks a lot.

Monday, October 31, 2011


So going into this whole parenting adventure, one of the things I said constantly was that I wasn't going to start any bad habits that we would then have to break.
Well, as we all know, I've compromised on EVERYTHING so far, so why not this cardinal rule, too?
At the moment, there are three crutches that Finn seems to need in order to sleep:
1. Miracle blanket. The ultimate swaddling blanket which made our night-time lives so much better a couple of months ago when friends introduced them to us.  It's the only thing that will keep Mr Startle Wiggle contained enough to keep sleeping for five hour stretches.  Since his digestion is getting so much better, and he's not startling as much, I figured he'd be OK sleeping sans swaddle, but I've tried putting him down time and time again in just his jammies, in sleep sacks, more loosely swaddled in other blankets, but he either won't settle or will only sleep for half hour stretches.
2. Sleep Sheep. This little critter plays four different white noises, and I'm not even sure why we started using it. It was a shower gift that I really loved, but wanted to adhere to the aforementioned cardinal rule, so I didn't plan to use it...then we used it when we went away for a weekend, then it just became a part of our bedtime routine, and now it's like a subconscious signal to Finn that it's bedtime. I'm not terribly worried about this crutch, but don't want him growing up to be one of those kids who has to have a fan running or the TV on for him to sleep. I've really worked on making sure that I'm not tiptoeing around him when he's asleep so he doesn't need perfect silence to sleep, but I also don't want noise a requirement in order to get some z's.
3. Nursing to sleep. Oh man, this is the biggie.  It wasn't such a big deal for the first few months, then there was that week when Finn would just go down in his co-sleeper a little drowsy but not asleep, and just sort of settle and fade away. Now, though, I have to get him completely unconscious until his head literally falls off my boob before I can put him down, and even then, it only works about 75% of the time. There have been a few times when Chad or a babysitter has put him down to sleep, so obviously he's capable of it, so maybe I just need to become more creative about ways to get him to relax enough to pass out - boob just seems to do the trick every time. The swaddle helps, the sheep helps, and if we need to stick with those two for a while before he'll go down on his own, I can live with that, but I don't want to be the only one who can put him down if I'm around. I'd like to be able to cook dinner or write some emails (or a blog!) every now and then.
Of course, I'll probably miss it when he doesn't need me anymore. If I've learned anything so far as a mom, it's that I miss some of the things I never thought I would. I can't believe Finn's almost 4 months old. He almost rolled over a couple of times this weekend, is really working on grabbing and holding, has mostly mastered tummy time, and we've set up the Johnny Jump Up on Saturday.  Leaps and bounds, and yes - sometimes I miss his co-sleeper inches from me, being woken up by snuffles and grunts. I DON'T miss his digestive discomfort, or the screaming for three hours at night, that's for sure, but there are things from that time that I do cherish. Time does fly, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One small step for Finn, one giant leap for Finnkind...in the wrong direction...

Well, they say that pride go-eth before a fall, and boy have we fallen this week.
Where did my little boy go who was sleeping 2+ hours twice a day, then only waking me once during the night for a quick snack? Where is my little boy who, when put down in bed, would roll over happily and fall asleep?
I guess it's silly for me to have expected a "routine" to have appeared out of nowhere, but it was so successful for almost a week, and I thought I'd hit on some magic solution. I thought Finn had been asking me for weeks to just put him the heck down so he could sleep already, and it was just getting through my thick skull.
Alas, I was mistaken.
This week has been a distinct step in the opposite direction - refusing to be put down, screaming his fool head off while I try to soothe him until I just can't take it anymore, napping in fits and starts for 45 minutes max, waking up oodles during the night, and becoming the lightest sleeper EVER.
I just don't get it. I'm trying to do everything right and it feels like I'm torturing myself and my son instead. No more baby steps forward, only leaps back.
Oops, there he goes. Well, that was a nice half hour.....

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dare I say it?

a snoozing Finn - haven't had the guts to take one of him alseep in his room yet.

So it happened like this:
Last week, we went to visit my mom in Connecticut, about five hous qway, not including the 1.25 hour ferry ride. 2 adults, 1 infant, 1 medium sized dog, and all the stuff we would need for a week away from home.  We started our day at 5:30am, and reached our destination at 3:45pm. It was a long day for everyone involved, but I have to say, Finn was a ROCKSTAR. He slept for about 2 hours until we stopped for lunch and a quick outlet shop, nursed, hung out happily for a little
over an hour, and slept again for almost the entire rest of the trip.
I was expecting a hellacious night considering how much the little dude had slept that day, but it was one of the best nights he'd had in a while (up twice to nurse, but only for about an hour total). Not only that, but it was the first night he spent in a room separate from us. Normally at home, he was in a co-sleeper about a foot away from me all night, which didn't do much for my sleep cycle, as he's a really noisy sleeper.  I was a little sad that he didn't seem a little more upset to be separated from us, but must admit that it was blissful...apart from when I got up to check that he was still alive ;)
When we returned home, we spent one night with the little man next to us in the co-sleeper, but it was clear that he was happier in another room, and we were happier with him there.  Since my husband and father have been working on building a crib for Finn since....oh.....May.....and it isn't finished yet, we opted to take the co-sleeper out of our room and put it in Finn's, the open side facing a wall where his crib will eventually go. (Disclaimer: Dad and Chad thought they'd have three solid weeks to work on it, but since Finn decided to show up early and summer is crazy busy on the island, they kind of put the crib on hold for a few months...which is FINE because I expected the baby to be in the co-sleeper for at least six months. The design of the crib is pretty elaborate, too - a 3-in-1 jobber, and neither of them has done much furniture making, even though they're both carpenters).
So step 1: Move Finn out of the room
Step 2: Make sure Finn is getting substantial amounts of sleep during the day. (Step two is sooooo contradictory to me - it took me forever to actually admit that when he sleeps during the day, he sleeps at night... I have a sneaking suspicion that the "colic" we were experiencing was really just a tired baby, but more on that later).
Two days ago, a friend mailed us a little package (how she can be a full-time Master's student, a wife, a mother of three, and remain so thoughtful as to send us sweet and helpful packages, I will never know). Inside were two gifts for Finn, including the cutest L.L. Bean rain jacket EVER with multi-colored octopi on it and one article that I think has seriously changed our lives. It's called "sleep success!", by Maura Rhodes from Parenting Magazine, March 2004, and not only did it fully support Step 1 and Step 2, but it introduced Step 3: putting the baby down while he's still awake.
Let me describe to you our bedtime routine with Finn prior to reading this article:
6:45: start preparing bath and stripping Finn
6:50-7:10ish: bathtime
7:15: baby massage with lavender oil
7:20: swaddle and nursing in bed while Chad reads Winnie-the-Pooh stories (with voices!!!!!)
7:30ish: down for the night
Now, we'd only been doing this a few weeks, and it's not like it was some big intrusion on our lives, but I knew that eventually, we'd have to wean him off it and it might be a little tricky.
This was our bedtime routine last night:
Bathtime and massage the same, just because we like it, but started a little after 7.
Tried nursing and reading - not interested, got really fussy...
7:30: down in his crib, eyes wide open...not a peep until 2:30am.
Not only that, but he took an unprecedented 2&1/2 hour nap yesterday afternoon.
In his room.
WHAT? Are you serious? This is amazing. Not only do I have a solid block of time in the afternoon to be an adult and get stuff done, but I have a baby who is happier and only wakes up once in the night (instead of, oh, five times)?. No s**t.
Now, this has been my reality for a total of about 24 hours. I do realize that it probably won't last and that we may have to adjust, but for Finn to learn to put himself to sleep and to get on a routine at 15 weeks is HUGE for me.
In fact, this blog is brought to you by that article as Finn went down half an hour ago (wide awake), and I haven't heard a peep since. I've taken out the compost, hung a load of laundry on the line, and written a whole blog. I am a new woman.
Hallelujiah (and by the way, I just spelled that right on the first try).
Unfortunately, a friend introduced me to Pinterest last night, and I'm afraid that might be where some of this naptime free time goes today, but you know what? I deserve it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Betwixt and between

I'm still really struggling with how to be the person I was before Finn was born and the person I have to be now - not that I don't love being Finn's mom. I totally do, but I feel like I kind of have to re-learn how to live.
Example: Yesterday morning, I went for a run, and last night, I worked at the restaurant I've worked at during the summers for the past 13 years.  I love working at The Haven. So many of us have worked there forever, so it's more like a social hour than work, and we're treated extremely well by the owner.  It's been great to get back to it, and I've been filling in shifts here and there since early September, but would leave early so I could come home.  Last night (the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend), however, I needed to stay until close, and then we all sat down and had dinner.  It was a fabulous night - everyone was happy, the food was well-timed, and I just felt like I was doing a really good job and having a fun time.  By the time we finished up and I headed home, it was 11:30.  I don't remember the last time I was up until 11:30. By the time I had pumped and gotten into bed, it was 12. Finn woke up at 12:15 and was up every hour or so until he got up for the day at 5. Thank heaven for Chad, who got up with Finn and let me sleep for another couple of hours, even though he hadn't gone to sleep too much earlier.
WHAT made me think that going for a run, followed by toting Finn around all day, followed by running around a restaurant for the next 7 hours and staying up several hours past my normal bedtime was a good idea?!?!?!?  My legs are completely demolished, and I'm utterly exhausted, yet somehow I thought I could just slip back into my old life like a comfortable pair of sneakers?
On top of all of this, at the beginning of September, I was hired as the director of an arts-based non-profit out here. 12-15 hours per week, mostly from home, but with an outside meeting here or there so I can still feel like a productive member of society and have some good adult conversation. Awesome. It's already a really enriching and positive experience for me and I'm so excited to sink my teeth into grant writing and fund raising. I think this is a perfect job for me, and I'm so pumped to have it; however, getting those 12-15 hours in is proving to be a bit of a struggle some weeks. I figured Finn would be on a schedule by now, but the only thing he does regularly is go to sleep at 7:30. I need a solid 2 hour morning nap where I can put him down and get some work done (and, you know, maybe start up a yoga practice again). I feel like I'm constantly trying to do two things at once (I know most of you moms out there are saying, "only TWO?"). I feel guilty hanging out with Finn when I know I should be working, but I feel guilty doing work when Finn is awake and happy. This leaves me with 15 minute snatches while Finn's fallen asleep nursing to return emails or research foundations (before he regurgitates his entire last meal. Dude is having a bit of trouble keeping his lunch down).
It's strange experiencing the whirlwind of the evolution of my identity. I know I'll get there - that who I was and who I am will somehow merge. I mourn some of my old independence and naiveté and look forward to the blasé, "been there, done that" attitude of veteran parents who know what they're doing (or at least know how to pass). For now, I'm somewhere in between and am plugging along.

A side note: thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me - here, on the NPR blog, and elsewhere. It means a lot to me, and makes this experience that much more rewarding.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The answer is no.

No, no, no.
Finn is not sleeping through the night. Therefore, I am not sleeping through the night.
Most days, I'm OK with this, particularly when it slips my mind. Asking me about how I'm sleeping or if he's sleeping through the night YET (as though every other infant in the world already is, and he's some sort of weirdo for continuing to wake up for late night/early morning snacks) reminds me of the days not so long ago when I slept and woke at my own whim, not someone else's and makes me feel more tired).  Dude, he's only three months old and I'm nursing, therefore he still wakes up. There are good nights (10 hours of sleep!!!), and not so good nights (3...blurg), but for the most part, I'm surviving and still manage to have a semblance of a social life.  Ask me again in three months, and I hope to god I'm saying  YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In other news, we're working on our air swallowing situation, and after speaking to a lactation consultant at the hospital where Finn was born, we determined that I'm actually making too much milk.  Now, for a girl whose one huge fear was running out of milk and having to supplement with formula, this was music to my ears, but it's definitely something we've needed to work on.  He's still occasionally swallowing air, but we got some great suggestions, and now my supply has diminished enough so that my boobs aren't aching to the point of popping anymore.  Hurrah!

So now that we've hit the elusive 3 month marker that we've been waiting for, I think I'm starting to get it.  Things are getting a lot more fun - smiles, laughter, interaction, recognition (even though the Pooh on the mobile above his changing table still gets the majority of the squeals of delight).  It's definitely getting easier, and definitely getting more fun...most of the time.

I promise I'll be better about updating - starting a new job and Finn's increased interaction have taken me away from my abundance of free time, but I'm getting back to it, and want to thank you all for joining me on this crazy ride!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Projectile Vomiting, Umbilical Hernias, and Possible Allergies, Oh My!

OK, so something is up with Sir Finn and I can't figure out what it is.  All of a sudden over the last week, he's had a really hard time sleeping at night, which is coinciding with him swallowing LOADS of air when he's nursing.  I have a distinct feeling that the two are related and that he's super uncomfortable when he tries to lay back down after a meal.  I've tried burping him for upwards of 45 minutes after he eats, but more often than not, I can't get a single burp out of the little stinker.  It's SO frustrating to be able to hear the air being sucked like a vacuum into his little belly and to be able to do nothing to help.  I've tried burping him immediately after he swallows it, but to no avail.  This week has also heralded the onset of a new talent by the little man - projectile vomiting. All of this has occurred during a week bookended by two weekends full of unfamiliar people and places, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it.
I also have another hunch that I think may be playing a part in his ongoing digestive dilemma...his belly button.  This little dude has one heck of an umbiculus.  For the first few weeks after he was born, it was "normal" - the little stump fell off all on its own (and was then consumed by our dog, but that's another story), and then all of a sudden, kaboom! It explodes into what Chad is calling "Ziggy's nose" after the comic strip character.  It completely dwarfs his poor little penis, and I would totally post a photo here, but man this poor kid is already going to have to go to therapy for me blogging about him on a national stage. I don't need to put him through that, too.  After googling umbilical hernias (what did we ever do before google???), we realized that it's totally normal and will likely resolve itself within a year.  We asked around, we actually know a mom who's son had one that went away at 3 months and another who still has one.  Our medical provider assured us that it's no big deal unless it becomes hot, hard, and oozy.  So far, so good.  But you know, the more I think about it, the more I think it must disrupt his little digestion.  I mean, think about it - you're a brand new person in the world and that's hard enough, but then to have some of your intestines bulging into a little space that they're not supposed to be in...I don't know, I think that would bother me.  Sometimes, I notice that when I push in his belly button, it seems to relieve his crying and sometimes he lets some gas out.  Now, this may just be coincidence, but I find it really hard to believe that it's not causing some sort of hiccup in his digestion.  I certainly don't think this happens to every child who has a herniated belly button, but I really, really think it's the case with Finn.  Not that there's anything we can do about it - it just gives me a little bit of comfort that maybe we have an answer for SOMEthing.
In the meantime, I think I'm going to call a lactation consultant to try to solve the mystery of the sudden penchant for swallowing huge amounts of air.  It's not a good time for mommy when, after a blissful five hours of continuous sleep, the rest of the night is broken up into 1 hour unhappy chunks.
I'm pretty sure that he may also have some allergies brewing, but I'm going to take one step at a time for now and hope that his watery eyes, sneezing, and stuffy nose are all figments of my imagination.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Parenting Lessons Learned, and Relearned

Sarah says she's learned the basics of parenting in the 8 weeks Finnley James has been around. Among those lessons: What worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow.
EnlargeCourtesy of Sarah Crossman
Sarah says she's learned the basics of parenting in the 8 weeks Finnley James has been around. Among those lessons: What worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow.
First published on NPR's Baby Project
It's so hard to believe that Finn has only been a part of our lives for a little over 8 weeks, and even harder to believe it's been 8 weeks already! I sometimes find it impossible to remember what I did with my days before he was born — but then I catch myself strategizing how to put him down for a second, just to do the dishes or run the vacuum.
During these past 8 weeks, I feel like we've learned the basics of what it takes to be a parent — and then relearned them all again as things change over and over. And that what worked yesterday is not going to work tomorrow (that was Lesson Numero Uno). I've also learned just how little sleep I can survive on, what a kick-ass partner I have, and that I just shouldn't count how many bodily fluids I have gotten on myself in any given day.
I've learned the Happiest Baby 5 S's, how to swaddle with the best of them, exactly how long Finn will tolerate the Moby Wrap, and how to do almost everything while holding a screaming or nursing baby.

About Sarah

Sarah Crossman, 32, and her husband, Chad, became first-time parents to Finnley James on July 3.
I've learned something from every woman on this blog, as well as those who have taken the time to leave comments. I read every single comment on my colic postand tried most of the suggestions (which is just about the time I learned Lesson Numero Uno).
I've learned how little sleep I can function on, where my breaking point is, and how to be gentle with myself when I've reached it. I've learned that I had no idea how fiercely I could love until I met Finn.
I've learned to forgive myself and Chad for not having all the answers, and I've learned to listen to others when they might have an answer that works.
I've learned that it drives me CRAZY when people smile or laugh when they hear Finn crying, but that I totally do the same thing with other people's children. I've learned that I am a walking, talking contradiction every day, and dread the day when Finn realizes and calls me on it.
I've learned that I'm not perfect, that I can be resentful, and that sometimes I wish I could just go for a bike ride or spend a few minutes alone without advanced planning. But I know, I KNOW that this will all be worth it.
I've learned how to look forward to every single day that I get to spend with this little miracle, and I've learned to remind myself to cherish every moment, though I know I won't.
Finally, I've learned how much I like writing about this experience, and how taking the time to reflect on what's going on helps to put it all into perspective. I've realized how much I look forward to sitting down and writing, no matter how little time I have, and how I compose when I'm nursing at 3 a.m. or walking the dog. I've realized that I have a lot to say, and whether or not it's on a nationally publicized blog, I want to keep doing it ...
... so I created a blog, Growing up Vinalhaven. I hope I can stay as true to it as I have to this one — I have not been the most consistent blogger in the past. Either way, this has been one hell of a trip, and I'm grateful to NPR, to the blog hosts, to the other moms, and to the readership who has been so supportive. It's been a pleasure to have been a part of the Baby Project.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who Is That Girl In The Mirror? From Feeling 'Ugly' To Beautiful Again

Sarah, shown in this image taken by a friend/photographer, says she felt "ugly" in her pregnant body. While taking this photo, she says, she felt almost graceful.
Michael Seif
Sarah, shown in this image taken by a friend/photographer, says she felt "ugly" in her pregnant body. While taking this photo, she says, she felt almost graceful.
(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
There's something to be said for feeling beautiful.
For the latter months of my pregnancy, I realized that my face was filling out and that I was dangerously close to acquiring a second chin. To a girl who has always been slender without really trying, the extra 50 or so pounds I put on while Finn was incubating had an effect on me that I was not expecting — I felt ugly.
I went from being the girl who loved to have her photo taken to being the girl who didn't appear in a camera frame for several months, save my baby shower in May. Virtually all of the photos taken of me between May and July are of my lower half, specifically my belly. Granted, that was the part of me most people wanted to see, but if I'm really honest with myself, I was ashamed of my weight gain, and a little scared that I didn't recognize the girl I saw in the mirror.
I was sure that I would want to be one of those women who gets maternity photos taken, and was certainly planning to do a belly cast in the last few weeks (which wound up nonexistent as Finn arrived three weeks early). However, when I looked at my body, it wasn't something I wanted to commemorate. I felt swollen and out of control.

About Sarah

Sarah Crossman, 32, and her husband, Chad, are first-time parents to Finnley James.
A few things have happened over the past couple of months to make me feel much more comfortable in my skin. First, as you may have guessed, getting that baby out of my belly and all that accumulating fluid that went with him was a good start. Since then, as Finn and I have taken our daily walks, I've slowly watched my face return to a more familiar form. Now that we've hit the six-week mark, I'll be able to start running again (gulp), and shake those last 10 pounds. It also helped to dress up in a slinky black number (which may have shown off some assets that are a bit more ample than they were pre-pregnancy) and put on a little makeup to help at a gallery opening a couple of weeks ago.
In addition, though, I do have to shout out to two fabulous artists who have played a huge role in my reconciliation between my pre- and post-birth selves. I am a very visual person, and the images these two have created are a tangible representation of my journey.
I have a great friend for whom I've been doing some unconventional modeling for the past eight years, who was only too enthusiastic to photograph me in my 8-month glory. The photos (one of which is at the top of this post) were taken from a cliff into a granite swimming quarry on the island where I managed to feel almost graceful. I have always felt at home in the water, and doing something that was so familiar to me in such an unfamiliar form gave me an almost primal sense of security and groundedness in my body.
Sarah says photos like this, of her and Finn, helped her see who she is now.
EnlargeAmanda Burse
Sarah says photos like this, of her and Finn, helped her see who she is now.
The other artist is one I've been looking forward to working with for months, but whom I didn't meet until a couple of weeks ago when she came out to shoot Finn's newborn photos. Amanda was a godsend. Not only did she teach me some new techniques for soothing Finn, but she managed to capture some amazing shots of my son. What she really did for me, though, was to give me a visual representation of who I am now.
Yes, I spend my days nursing and changing diapers. You would think, therefore, that it would have sunk in by now that I'm a mom, but it was so profound to see myself in these images, almost as though they are proof that I made it. Somehow, they made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my ability to do this job, which is turning out to be so much harder and so much more wonderful than I ever expected.
So thank you, Michael and Amanda, for joining me on my journey back to myself, and for creating images that define beauty as strength, confidence and love.

Mayday, Mayday! We Have Some Colic On Our Hands!

Finn sleeps with his "sister" Nugget at Sarah and Chad's home in Maine.
Courtesy of Sarah Crossman
Finn sleeps with his "sister" Nugget at Sarah and Chad's home in Maine.
(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
So it's been just over five weeks now. Finn is thriving, having gained 4 1/2 pounds, and an inch-and-a-half in length so far. The dude is weighing in at a meaty 11 pounds, 2 1/2 ounces, and is getting more than a little uncomfortable to carry in our sling. He's as handsome as ever and it's been mesmerizing to watch the little changes every day — that second (or even third) chin developing on his little body, the wideness of his eyes as he stares off into space (what is he looking at?), and the strength in his neck as he cranes up to see what's going on. It's been one hell of a ride so far.
However, there's one other thing that's been changing: his temperament. And not in a good way. I think we might have some colic on our hands, people. Mayday, mayday!
It's been dawning on me a little bit each day, having spent enough time with babies his age and older to realize that he cries quite a bit more than them. A friend of mine posted a photo of her sleeping baby on Facebook, and then another photo, taken a few moments later, of her waking up with a huge smile on her face. Finn, on the other hand, seems to hate waking up, crying almost every time he wakes from a nap.

About Sarah

Sarah Crossman, 32, and her husband, Chad, are first-time parents to Finnley James.
When we are hanging out with the class of 2029, the two other babies who were born within nine days of Finn are either sleeping, nursing or silently alert when we get together, but Finn is restless and fussy. He seems to hate bath time for the most part, as well as getting into his car seat ... and don't even get me started on changing his diaper, when he acts as though the sky is falling.
Now, the symptoms of colic are technically that the baby cries for three hours or more for at least three days a week for at least three weeks. It normally resolves itself within three months, and the symptoms produce no lasting effect and have no health risk to the child. In theory, that doesn't sound so bad, but in reality, it's really, really, really hard to deal with. We've dealt with it for three nights so far, starting at 7:30 p.m., and continuing until 10:00 or 11:00. Chad and I alternately sat with Finn two nights ago until he finally passed out at 11:00. During that time, he screamed, and I mean screamed, no matter what we did or said or tried. It was absolutely excruciating listening to it, having his little body wracking in my arms, and not being able to do anything, and I know for sure that Chad felt the same way. I finally broke down crying after a while, and it was a real low point for us as a couple as we debated whether or not we wanted to have another child and admitted that this has not been as rewarding so far as we had hoped.
I do realize that these are totally normal feelings to have, and I do know that down the line, when Finn can interact and communicate, we're going to wonder what we were so worked up about. I do know that. But it's really hard right now, and I'm just trying to be honest.
No one knows the exact reason for colic, but I'm pretty sure that Finn's been swallowing a significant amount of air when he nurses sometimes, and that his system is having a lot of trouble processing it. I'm overwhelmed by the number of suggestions we can try to soothe him — swaddling, trying a different diet, burping every three minutes, using a pacifier, driving him around, massage, nursing only on one side at a time, running the vacuum cleaner, etc., etc., etc. I plan to try all of them, maybe even at the same time, but it doesn't solve the problem that my baby is most likely in pain, and that he's trying to let me know that. I can see him straining, trying to get whatever is blocking him out, and it kills me that I might be doing something to contribute to his agony (was it something I ate?).
So, NPR readers, I'm looking for suggestions to help soothe him, stories of babies who made it through (or more importantlyparents who made it through), words of wisdom, etc. I'm really hoping that it's just a phase, but am preparing myself for the long haul. If colic lasts for three months, then it will all be over by October. I think I can, I think I can ...

Milking Myself: A Surprising Emotional Reaction to Pumping

Sarah started pumping so she could get out of the house, but is struggling with the process because she'd rather nurse Finn.
EnlargeCourtesy of Sarah Crossman
Sarah started pumping so she could get out of the house, but is struggling with the process because she'd rather nurse Finn.
(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
(Disclaimer: I realize that I may sound a bit grumpy in this post, but I am super-grateful that nursing is working for us, and my heart goes out to the women who are having a difficult and/or impossible time breast-feeding.)
So, I've started milking myself.
I'm sorry, but there's really no other way to describe it. There is something just plain wrong about pumping my own breast milk. Logically, it makes complete sense, but in practice, it is completely surreal.
Last week, I wanted to go see the Key of She, an all-female a cappella group from New Jersey. It seemed like the perfect time to see if Finn would take a bottle; I would only be gone for a couple of hours at most, and Chad wanted to stay home with the boy.
Perfect. After reading the instructions carefully and sterilizing all 321 parts to the pumping contraption (OK, it wasn't that many, but it felt like it!), I was ready to go. And to be quite honest, it was easy. Physically, no problem whatsoever, but for some reason, I had a really powerful emotional reaction to it. I tend not to chalk this up to crazy mommy hormones — can anyone else relate?

About Sarah

Sarah Crossman, 32, and her husband, Chad, are first-time parents to Finnley James.
First of all, my breast milk is not something I've actually SEEN before. It goes from my breast into Finn's mouth, apart from the occasional drip (or spray — woah — didn't know those suckers could shoot so far!). And it was kind of nice that way — it's kind of amazing that I can create food in the first place, and the process just seemed sort of magic.
Second, it was kind of nice not obsessing about how much he was eating. I know if he was eating formula, I'd be chronicling what time he feeds and how much, and making up theories about why. However, it's so much easier to nurse. It's clear that he's healthy and gaining weight, so I wasn't concerned. It's nice to let go of control, and a good lesson for this new game called parenthood. But now, I'm all freaked out if I get less than 2 ounces — as if Finn can tell, or that he would somehow be getting more if he was nursing.
Third, and most importantly, I felt like I was losing something. I was quite literally giving away the only thing that I had that no one else did. Yes, it was totally liberating, but I don't think I was necessarily all that excited to be liberated just yet.
If I'm going to be totally honest, I kind of wanted to jealously hold onto the one thing that I could do that no one else could. It's kind of a magical process for me. I am able to produce a life-sustaining substance, and even if Finn isn't hungry, just upset, the smell of my boobs can calm him down. It's kind of intense. I wasn't so sure I wanted to give away my superpower.
Obviously, though, I got over my fit of jealousy and handed over the goods to Chad. This was the moment I was terrified of. I think I was equally as terrified that he would take the bottle and that he would reject it. I have experience with babies who refuse bottles, and it makes life much harder on the mom, not to mention the babysitter who has to deal with a screaming, starving infant who is refusing to eat!
However, I needn't have worried — after an initial confused rejection on Finn's part, he downed the bottle from his daddy and fell asleep. When I called at intermission, I was one part elated and one part melancholy. I know it's ridiculous to think that a bottle has replaced me, but a little part of me feels that way. I expected at least a little struggle from Finn.
(As they say, though, be careful what you wish for! A few days later, my sister was staying with Finn while I was at a doctor's appointment, and he refused to eat for the better part of an hour, even going so far as to nurse on his arm hard enough to give himself a hickey before finally accepting the bottle from her.)
All in all, though, I'm very pleased that Chad and others can have the satisfaction of feeding Finn, and that I can have the freedom to pick up a few shifts at the restaurant I've worked at seasonally for over 10 years. But I'm a little sad, too. Not gonna lie.
In other news, I can't believe Finn is already a month old! I'm starting to realize that "they grow up so fast" is a gross understatement! He's averaging about a 2-ounce-per-day weight gain, and that's when he's NOT going through growth spurts. Weighing in at 6 pounds, 12 ounces when he was born, he's no longer a squirt, as he's pushing 11 pounds now. Luckily, we're taking his newborn photos this weekend, so his comparatively wee size will be commemorated.
Newborn photos. Me. Who would've thunk? I think I'm beginning to resemble "that girl" more and more every day.

Guess What? Being a New Mom Isn't All Sunshine And Roses

Sarah says she read way too many books on child-rearing while she was pregnant. Now, just a few weeks into parenthood, she can already start counting all the compromises she's made.
EnlargeCourtesy of Sarah Crossman
Sarah says she read way too many books on child-rearing while she was pregnant. Now, just a few weeks into parenthood, she can already start counting all the compromises she's made.
(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
So it's not all rainbows and sunshine over here in new-parentdom. To illustrate, imagine my poor husband coming home for his lunch break to find both his infant son and his wife in inconsolable tears on the couch.
Yeah, like that.
It's moments like these that make me realize that parenting is going to be a compromise, no matter what our best intentions were heading into this.

About Sarah

Sarah Crossman, 32, and her husband, Chad, are first-time parents to Finnley James.
Before Finn was born, Chad and I talked at length about our child-rearing philosophy. We decided to co-sleep with our baby (and to be honest, apart from a few half-hearted attempts, he hasn't even made it into the co-sleeper. He spends his nights happily couched between the two of us). We don't yet own a stroller and are either holding or "wearing" Finn for the majority of his life — so far in a sling, moving on to Snugli, the Ergo and the Kelti backpack as he grows.
We purposely bought a car seat that permanently installs in the car so we wouldn't be tempted to carry him from place to place in his seat, but rather be in contact with us, even if it meant dislodging a sleeping baby from his slumber.
Yes, I'm the girl who read way too many books about child-rearing before Finn was born. I managed to avoid the pregnancy books for the most part, allowing our process to unfold as it did, feeling confident in my ability to carry and deliver a baby. That was the easy part. However, at the age of 32, I've still never had a huge amount of experience with babies, particularly small ones, and felt that I wasn't necessarily prepared to care for an infant.
So I read The Continuum Concept. I read Our Babies, Ourselves. I read The No- Cry Sleep Solution, and The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. And the message that ran throughout these books, in addition to baby-wearing and co-sleeping, was this: DO NOT LET THE BABY CRY IT OUT.
After having this message hammered into my brain over and over (and particularly after reading the description from The Continuum Concept about the psychological damage inflicted on an infant "crying it out"), you can bet I was sold on the idea. It was a no-brainer, really.
Or at least it seemed that way, reading it as an eight-months pregnant woman lounging on the couch with a reasonable amount of sleep.
During her pregnancy, Sarah and Chad talked at length about the types of parents they'd be, and the rules they'd put in place.
EnlargeCourtesy of Sarah Crossman
During her pregnancy, Sarah and Chad talked at length about the types of parents they'd be, and the rules they'd put in place.
But now, as a woman who hasn't had a "good" night's sleep since July 3, sitting here, trying to write a blog with a wiggly baby on her lap, I can look back and laugh at that pregnant chick and start counting the compromises.
Compromise No. 1: Now, this one isn't really our fault because the car seat we chose is one we thought we would be using, but because it's superbig and fancy, and because Finn was supersmall at birth, it was just plain, too darn big for him, and we've been using a hand-me-down from my cousin — one of those Graco numbers that snaps in and out of the base.
You know what? Those things come in handy! I can take a shower alone without worrying what Finn's smothering himself with, and I can bring him on the ferry and strap him into another car on the mainland when we need to go see our midwife. I'm certainly not toting him from place to place in it. First of all, that thing's heavy, and second of all, I like carrying him in a sling. It's way more comfortable for me, and less cumbersome.
Compromise No. 2: Sometime during week 3 (it all just sort of blurs together these days), Finn was having a really tough time sleeping, meaning Chad and I were having an even more rough time. He was waking every hour or so to nurse, followed by a fitful process of falling back asleep, only to have it start again about 20 minutes later. This went on for a couple of nights before the pacifiers came out. Our original plan had been not to introduce any bad habits we'd have to wean him off of later, but in order to make life easier now, we whipped one out (BPA-free, of course), and stuck it in his kisser. Alas, Finn was not impressed, and contrary to its name, the pacifier did very little to pacify.
Finn and his dad, at home on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.
EnlargeCourtesy of Sarah Crossman
Finn and his dad, at home on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.
Compromise No. 3: We plan to raise Finn without a television, and don't have one in the house. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I'd stopped working and started catching up on the seasons of Project Runway we'd missed during our time in the U.K., via Hulu on our computer. I intended to quit as soon as Finn was born, but for the past few weeks, I've been cheating and hopping onto the site at least once a day, usually during Finn's epic nursing binges (this explains why he's gained 2 ½ pounds in 3 weeks!). It's nice to turn off my increasingly exhausted brain for a minute and lose myself to Tim Gunn encouraging the designers to "make it work" — I think this might be my mantra!
I can already see myself caving to using the computer as a babysitter every now and then — as long as Elmo is nowhere to be seen. I also predict a defeat when it comes to going downtown to the penny candy store, though — thankfully — that challenge is far in the future.
What I cannot see myself doing, though, is breaking that cardinal rule and letting Finn cry it out alone. I can't help but think that no matter what, he's crying for a reason, and if he thinks for a second that I've abandoned him rather than do anything in my power to make it all better, I would be really disappointed with myself.
At the beginning, his cry would tear at the fibers of my being, making me curl my toes and bite my lip (evolution really knows what it's doing). But it's been getting easier to keep him company when he cries, even if I've exhausted every other option, at least he knows I'm there.
So all in all, parenting is a tough gig, and constantly changing. Whenever I think I've got a tiny part of it down, all the rules go up in smoke. There will be compromises and there will be moments I'm not so proud of, but I think I'm learning to trust my instincts and forget about the books so much. Just focusing on this little guy and trying to do the best by him seems to be the best strategy for me.