Posts Tagged "motherhood"

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Posted on Jan 30, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Six Things I Have Learned About Baby Sleep

Eight years ago, I was pregnant with my first child and I knew that I would probably have some sleepless nights in my future. It turns out that I didn’t even know the half of it. No one tells you ahead of time how bad it can be or how to cope, but three kids later, I’ve learned a couple of things: 6. Babies Get Tired Every Two Hours Little babies can only be up for about two hours before they are tired again. Knowing this can make all the difference in how your days unfold. Knowing this can soften sleep struggles. Take note of when they get up and watch them after about two hours. It’s easier to put a sleepy baby to bed than to fight a baby who is either over-tired or not tired at all. 5. Babies Have ~45 Minute Sleep Cycles Thanks to Elizabeth Pantley for teaching me this one. We all sleep in cycles of deep sleep and light sleep, and we all wake up at various times during the night before returning back to sleep. The problems for parents and babies are: Our sleep cycles are different lengths (baby cycles being quite a bit shorter than ours). Babies wake more frequently than we do and often wake when we are in a deeper part of our sleep cycle making it more painful for us to wake up (though breastfeeding and co-sleeping both help to sync mother and baby sleep cycles). Babies don’t always know how to go back to sleep when they wake up during a lighter stage of their sleep cycle. This is why a baby who has a particular sleep association (like say, nursing to sleep as all my children have had) will wake hourly all night long and want to use that same method to go back to sleep. I happen to think that nursing to sleep is normal based on the biological systems that support it. However, it did help to know what was going on when my babies started waking hourly, or why a baby will only take 50 minute naps. 4. Put Down The Sleep Books I’ve said this before, but this one is pretty big for me so I will say it again: the more I read the sleep books, the more likely I was not in a good head space about our sleep situation. I’m not saying that you should never ever pick up a book on baby sleep. Many of them are super helpful. Some of them are not. Also, as I indicated with the two points above, it IS worth knowing a bit about the mechanics and biology of baby sleep and naps. Absolutely. But when you are obsessively reading more than one sleep book at a time, keeping sleep logs, counting wake ups, comparing last week to this week, plotting, strategizing, and reaching for another sleep book, there’s a pretty good chance that you need: support a break to clear your life of commitments to accept that this what is happening for you now, but it won’t last forever I’m glad I read some of the books when I had my first baby. But I’m also glad that I eventually realized that I never needed to read them ever again. (This also goes for googling: how to get my baby to sleep or why is my baby waking up so much). 3. It Sucks When People Tell You That The Baby Years Go Fast, But It’s True You know above where I said that you have to accept that this is what is happening now but it won’t last forever? You might have sworn at me under your breath. I hated, HATED, it when people said variations of “all this will one day be a memory” and I could have punched them in the throat when they even hinted that I would miss it. When I was in the depths of psychotic sleep deprivation, this is about the least helpful thing you could say to me. For someone who is struggling...

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Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

Posted on Jan 27, 2013 in Featured, Sleeping | 3 comments

Confessions of a Reformed Co-sleeper

{When I was pregnant with Silas, I decided that for this baby I would try not co-sleeping. I had co-slept with my older two children and had suffered through 18-24 months of hourly wakings. I knew I had to try something different, just in case it worked. At first, it worked beautifully but eventually, Silas developed the same sleep routine as his older siblings. When Silas was 16 months old, we moved from a 1900 sq. ft. house into our 300 sq. ft. converted school bus. Sleeping arrangements changed drastically. The most practical solution for all of us, considering that Silas was still waking to nurse between four and eight times each night and there was no room for a crib, was for me and Silas to share the queen-size bed, and for Aaron to share the double bed with one of our other children.} Here I am, a co-sleeper, once again, through practical necessity. I confess that I appreciated the time Silas spent sleeping in a crib. I appreciated the early days when he slept multiple consecutive hours and I was able to sleep soundly across the room but still wake when I heard him rustle around in search of me. I can attest that I appreciated the space in my own bed to fall deeply asleep for 45 minutes at a time between his hourly wake ups that went on for a year. I relished being able to get comfortable in any position I wanted without anyone touching me, even as I dreaded the many times I had to get up and down in a night. Those blissful deep sleeps free of a head in my ribcage, an arm across my throat, a foot in the face, or an entire body on my chest made the crib worth it, even when it didn’t do the job I hoped it would. As a reformed co-sleeper, I confess that I am grateful that our living situation re-imposed co-sleeping on me. I admit that I no longer tiptoe into bed for fear that the stirring of the duvet will wake the baby, as I once did in my first incarnation as a co-sleeper. I confess that now when I climb into bed, I wrap my son in my arms and pull his sleeping body up against my own. I confirm that a bury my face in the curve of his neck and inhale the smell of him. I do indeed pass my hands softly over his silky baby hair and rub them over him, feeling the ridge of his spine, the hollow of his back, the fullness of his belly, the way his little foot fits in the palm of my hand like a secret. I acknowledge that I hold on a little tightly, squeezing him into me, absorbing him, for just a fraction of a second as I breathe in his ear, “I love you.” I confess that as he stirs, and becomes aware of my presence in his sleep, I return him gently to his pillow, smoothing his fuzzy blanket over him, and patting him back into his dreams. I confide that I take his hand, heavy and limp with sleep, into my own hand, closing my fingers around his fist, as I settle into my own pillow and close my eyes. I confess that I am ok temporarily not sharing a bed with my husband. I wouldn’t sleep as well if there were another adult body in the bed. Alone in the bed with a toddler, I have the luxury and space to roll away from Silas between nursing sessions and get comfortable, just as I could when Silas was in a crib. I acknowledge that I have been given a gift: the chance to reclaim all that I lost during the year Silas slept in a crib. I even admit that sometimes I love it when he sits up in the night and says, “nurse. mama.” because it means that I have one more chance to memorize the weight and shape of unconditional love, that I...

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Nurture This Year

Posted on Jan 17, 2013 in Featured | 1 comment

Nurture This Year

I started off this year with a delightful houseful of family guests, and their departure was followed immediately by Aaron’s departure to work for three days on a remote island. For three days, I parented on my own, got my son back into the routine of school after several weeks off, and tried to get my kids back to a normal bedtime after a week of falling asleep at midnight with their much older cousins. Aaron returned from work with a brutal chest cold that left him with chills and a poisonous mood. Somehow in all of that, I managed to find a quiet evening to reflect on the last year and the new year, and thankfully, a word bobbed to the surface of my mind, like a cork. The word was NURTURE. nur·ture Care for and encourage the growth or development of.   This word is so perfect for our 2013 that it actually sings to me. My youngest child is turning 2 next month. I know that this year most likely holds his weaning and his potty training. This means that sometime this year for the first time in 8 years, we will no longer have a baby in our family. For the first time in 8 years, there will be no diapers, no night waking (ok, realistically, there will still be some, but there will be considerably less night waking with the direct result being a drastic improvement in my quality of life), no more breastfeeding. This is monumental. This is me saying goodbye to childbearing. This is our family moving on from baby days. This is me reclaiming some autonomy as a person, not just as a physical baby grower and tender. This is my last baby becoming physically independent: walking, talking, eating, and using the toilet on his own. This is us entering a new season. Yet, none of this is here yet. It is only on the horizon. Now is the time to nurture myself in preparation for the unfolding that will happen next year and the following years when I will have the freedom to explore some of my interests. This is a time to explore what my own hopes and wants and needs are so that when that new season arrives, I will be ready to begin. This is the year to nurture my last baby as he begins all of these tasks of making the final physical separations, to hold him tenderly as he becomes more independent, to honour the slow start-and-stop process that his weaning will likely be, and for me, to cherish the few remaining days, not just of his babyhood, but of babyhood in our family. This year, 2013, is the year my daughter begins Kindergarten so this is a time to nurture her growing independence and to respect and honour her needs and emotions when that process feels frightening and overwhelming. Lastly, we have many projects that need nurturing before they will blossom. We have our family business to tend, our partnership at the farm to develop, our cabin to finish, our yard and garden to cultivate. There is all that and more in our lives that is ready for nurturing. In this moment I see so much of our family life just like the seedling pictured above. We have planted all of these seeds, and we have watered, and we have waited, and now, the first tentative sprouts are peeking above ground. Now is not the time to forget them, to become busy and distracted. Now is the time for tenderness, for love, for attention, for caring, for forgiveness, for grace, for nurturing. Before I sign off, I wanted to share a couple of posts I came across while working through my annual reflection. Some of the things I’d like to do to nurture myself come from this great list of 10 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep (though I think it might be a bit much to try to implement all of them at once) and there are some great ideas for nurturing that...

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Seasons of Motherhood

Posted on Jan 12, 2013 in Featured, Parenting | 16 comments

Seasons of Motherhood

For some time now, we’ve been without regular childcare. This is partly our own fault: our old babysitter moved back to England, and we tried out some new ones but they weren’t really great matches. Our little ones have also gone through some phases of separation anxiety so we didn’t prioritize finding someone new. We decided to let it go. The reality of this, especially with no extended family living locally, is that I spend 24 hours a day with my children (we even share sleep). For either Aaron or I to go do something (a dentist appointment, parent teacher interview, work, a beer/tea/movie with a friend), we have to schedule it so that the other parent will be home, or we bring the kids along if possible. Of course, this also means that it has been nearly impossible for Aaron and I to go out together. In fact, we have sometimes even resorted to waiting until we had family visiting from 2 provinces away before we would plan to go do something together (like belatedly go out for dinner for our 10th Anniversary). Yes, I know–as I type, I can hear whole parts of the internet bursting into flames over our unwillingness to preserve the sanctity of “date night.” Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this seriously impairs my ability to have my own life in addition to my role as mother. Obviously, I don’t have a career outside of raising kids, I’m not able to return to school, and my hobbies are sporadic at best. I won’t lie to you: sometimes that feels stifling and overwhelming. Sometimes I rage against the whole system (the universe, motherhood, biology–why aren’t men the ones with the boobs!?). Sometimes I just want some time for me. Sometimes I dream wistfully about what I’ll be when I grow up, I mean, when they grow up. Often, I stay up too late in the evenings, just to squeeze in a couple of kid-free hours after the last of our kids has finally (unwillingly) succumbed to slumber. It isn’t always an easy place to be. Lately, and by that I mean, since Silas was born (almost 2 years ago), I feel at peace with this. After 8 years of pregnancy and motherhood, have I finally just given up, and allowed myself to be eaten by the needs of my children? No, it’s more likely that, because Silas is our last child, I am buoyed by the knowledge that the end is in sight. Though, it’s also true that this peace over my voluntary position as a mother has burned as an ember deep inside me from the earliest days, from the first decisions that I made to set aside some of my wants and needs in deference to my children’s needs.Those choices represented an ever-shifting, intricate blend of willing sacrifice and practical necessity. Through it all, despite the times I sometimes fought against it, there was that sense of peace deep within. Call it intuition. I never questioned why I felt that way. I just knew it for what it was. So much of what I read or hear in our culture tells me that I shouldn’t be ok with stepping out of the work force for so many years, that I shouldn’t be ok with being unable to go on a date with my husband, that I shouldn’t be ok with nursing my toddler more than 4 times in a night. I hear the cautionary tale of the housewives who live their whole lives for their children, who exist only for the PTA meetings and to drive the soccer practice car-pool van, who meddle in their teenage children’s dramas, and who find themselves completely lost when their children leave for college. Yet, I don’t worry about any of those things. Ever since Silas was born, that little ember of peace and acceptance for the way things are has grown, and with it my understanding of why every single one of these sacrifices is ok with me. I have...

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Home Again

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured | 11 comments

Home Again

The last time I slept in our bus was four years ago. I was 37 weeks pregnant. It was a Thursday, and we had no idea it would be our last night in the home we had crafted and lived in for five years. We had no idea that the next day our daughter Noa would make her appearance three weeks early, throwing a wee little 6Lb 14oz monkey wrench in our moving plans which had involved a couple more nights before beginning a new life as house people. Four years minus one week later (to the day – Thursday), we spent our first night back in Eliza Brownhome, this time as a family of five (rather than three). Within two days, I had us all unpacked, every nook, cranny, and carefully planned storage space filled to capacity. It was neat and tidy and familiar. Somehow, despite the two extra children (and all the STUFF that entails), despite the stress of the move, despite the stress of downsizing after 4 years of house-dwelling (and all the stuff THAT entails)–somehow, it felt like we had come home. It felt a little like we had never left, which was odd, given how much had happened to us in the intervening years. Our third night home, I lay in bed in the dark with a baby snuggled beside me, listening to a summer downpour pounding the steel roof only four feet above my head. I was reminded of all the other nights just like that one, except that those nights back then, it had been a different baby, and that baby was now an almost seven year old. It felt so good to be home and yet there was something jangly, and slightly jarring about it. Something in the periphery of the memory that made the whole experience seem surreal too. Perhaps it was connected to the utterly bizarre experience I had every time I looked out the window–which happens every minute when you live in a 300 square foot house with 26 windows. Everything about Eliza felt normal and right except the view out the windows which was completely wrong, of course, given that we had moved her 250 km. Imagine picking up the house you live in right now, and plopping it down somewhere else. Imagine looking out the window and seeing a forest of salal, huckleberries and Douglas fir instead of your yard, your garden, your garage, your patio lanterns. After five years living in the same spot in Vancouver, I knew the view out of every single one of our 26 windows so intimately that my memory was superimposing those views over the much more real information that was streaming into my mind via my fully functioning optic nerves, blending the two images in a slightly unnerving way. This being home business was good and all, but Eliza wasn’t all that she’d been before, right? She’d sat alone and empty for four years and was now a farm bus instead of a big city bus. This was going to take some getting used to. But then again, listening to the rain on roof at night brought to mind the sensory deprivation we had first experienced when we moved into the duplex we rented the first year of Noa’s life. I remember lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, 8 feet up. We had bought a King size bed and the room was huge. Everything felt cavernous and empty. And quiet. We couldn’t hear the rain. We couldn’t feel the cold on the window panes. We couldn’t feel the wind shake our home. We would wake in the morning and have no idea what the weather was like, what we’d missed while we slept. We were truly disconnected from the natural world, from our community, living in a well-insulated, private, box. I remember how wrong that had felt, for most of that first year, and now, I was shocked to realize that I couldn’t remember when that feeling had ebbed away. When had living in a house become...

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