Our silly munchkin turned one a few days ago. The year has flown by so fast, and I can’t imagine life without our little girl. Her personality is so much fun and I love being a mother to our sweet goofball. She loves people (usually even strangers, though Ezra and I are definitely her favorites), loves to ham it up for us or the camera, wants to be involved in everything I do, loves exploring, is determined but also sensitive – when she wants something, she doesn’t give up easily when she can’t have it, but even a gentle “no” (sometimes) causes her to burst into tears. I love watching her grow and learn new things, and all of the smiles she brings to people we pass and meet.
Looking back on the year, it’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown and also how important our families and friends have been, especially our mothers, my friends who came to stay (Anna, Angela, Hannah, Hannah, and Sarah), and the women that sent me encouraging messages and/or were there for me in the roughest moments – Mom Guest, Aunt Becky, and Jennifer A.
And there are so so so many sweet memories, especially surrounding those first weeks when all we did was cuddle (this post has some nudity but is amazing for ideas on how to spend those first few weeks).
Not that it was as easy as my memories make it seem. I got sick of hearing “it gets easier after 6 weeks… 3 months… 6 months…” and started reminding myself what my sister said – that it doesn’t necessarily get easier just different. Though that different for us has often meant fewer hard moments but harder when they’re there. There are ALWAYS hard things: if not reflux, then teething, or general crankiness, or moving too much too fast and getting hurt or frustrated. I so often fell into the trap of “once this is over it’ll be easier/I won’t get so upset or discouraged.” But I still do, even though it’s only one day a week or once week at a time instead of months without end. Which has shown me again and again that circumstances may be horrendous but my heart is even more horrendous and I need His help more than anything, and THAT, not doing fun things with my kids, is what’s going to make me a good mom – being one that says to myself and my kids “I’m discouraged, I messed up, I need Jesus just like you.” – and He’s here helping me, and He’s the one who gave us THIS baby with THESE issues at THIS time (so many times I prayed “seriously, God? You know we have stacks and stacks of paperwork and long lists of things to do to move across the ocean and his work isn’t any help and we’re dealing with a baby who won’t sleep on top of it all?”). But He knows. And there were definitely things I needed to learn (some I STILL need to learn – you’d think after all that I’d be more patient and not get angry when she doesn’t sleep…) through all of it. Not that that made it any easier going through it.
I want to remember all of it: the difficult but precious days of struggling to find time to do the dishes, feeling like I could never make dessert or more elaborate dinners, get back into writing and music or do special things with her, holding for all her short naps, etc., as well as all of the more numerous happy memories.
We celebrated S’s birthday a few weeks early so my family could be a part of the festivities. I didn’t really want to make a cake for just us and since they were here so close to her birthday we decided to celebrate then, and finish presents on her birthday since they weren’t all here or done.
I had thought about doing a bigger party, but didn’t, mostly because we were so new here – if we’d been in San Diego with all of her friends we would have done something with all of them. But because of those thoughts I had some ideas for food and decorating, so we had a bit of a “Japan” theme with chicken curry (S’s favorite food), a cake decorated like Totoro from “My Neighbor Totoro,” a bunting made out of some Japanese fabric, and one of her presents was a doll I made of Mei from Totoro. I also made her an owl hat, since the sweater I was making her ended up too small. She loves the owl, but hates wearing the hat.
Totoro! I used this tutorial, but without fondant. The white of his eyes is just frosting I rolled into a ball and flattened, and the black part is raisins.
The cake itself was this recipe, but I combined a few frosting recipes to make my own (1 c coconut cream, dash vanilla, 2 Tbsp maple syrup, 3 Tbsp coconut oil, 1 Tbsp coconut flour, 2 Tbsp arrowroot) I had to melt it and then let it cool, then whip it, and let it cool some more before I could use it. It was ok. I was limited in what I could do since it had to be pipable and nut, dairy, and sugar free. Next time I’ll invest in some coconut butter. I would also whip the cake more to make it lighter and only do one layer as it was pretty heavy and dense.
When she was 6 months old I wrote some on our baby sleep journey so far, and wanted to update a bit with some more links and things we’ve learned. She’s not sleeping through the night yet but that’s just lack of desire and motivation on our part and is coming soon (I’ve already taken the first steps of not nursing to sleep at bed time and not comfort sucking in the middle of the night).
As time goes on, the more I am convinced that crying it out is rarely the answer to baby sleep problems (the only time it would ever be is for an older baby with prop issues. This has lots of good info on that. I can’t wait for her book!). Whenever S has had a harder time than usual sleeping, there’s something wrong and another way to fix it. Often it takes more time and work, yes, but it fixes the root issue much more gently.
For example – her wakings from 12-1 AM are almost always discomfort, and her early wakings are almost always because her wake times are too short, so taking off her sleeper, giving her chamomile for teething, etc. or giving her longer A times fixes it without tears.
At 6 months she got a lot more flexible with sleep and wasn’t so easily overtired, which was nice, but made it harder to gauge when something was wrong. Then at 8 months her naps got a bit shorter (1 – 1.3 hours, so just under “enough”), signaling longer wake time in a different way than before.
Finding a balance between attachment parenting and a more rigid schedule isn’t easy but I’m glad we’ve done it. I think it was especially important with all we’ve been through. I think we needed to guide/influence her more than attachment parenting often allows, but also needed to do a lot more babywearing/night nursing/nursing on demand than other “parenting methods” allow – and some of it may just be S, not the move and all that – she has nursed every 2 hours during the day since she was 6 months old, and nothing has stopped that. I don’t know if it’s comfort or legitimate hunger, but it is what it is, and we’d both be miserable trying to change it.
Some helpful links:
– Baby & Toddler Sleep Regressions
– How the Wonder Weeks Affect Sleep (I’m on the fence about Wonder weeks. most of the time S was not in line with them but other times she was and this helped a lot then).
– Managing Nap Transitions (4-3 and 3-2 were very smooth for us, mostly thanks to basing her sleep times off of wake time lengths and being flexible with bed time when we needed to be).
Finally, REFLUX. Praise the Lord, that finally ended! An elimination diet revealed that dairy and gluten were at least partially the culprits, but I still had to avoid them until she was 8 months old.
The silent reflux was far rougher than any sleep issues (though it contributed to sleep issues). It’s a beast and especially with your first makes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong, and there are so few who really understand what it’s like. I got asked so much “is she on a schedule? Do you let her cry it out?” when people hear she didn’t sleep well. Yes, we have a routine and no, we don’t cry it out as it aggravates reflux (among other things), and we hold her upright after feeds and do smaller more frequent meals and no it’s not just normal baby sleeplessness. My postpartum depression was mostly gone by the time the reflux really flared up, but the reflux definitely made it more of a struggle after that and made it hard to tell sometimes if it was really gone or if I was just realistically discouraged from having a reflux-y, hyper baby that needed it pitch black to sleep and had a teeny-tiny sleep window between tired and hyper in addition to E’s unpredictable work schedule and all the moving paperwork and preparation.
I hated watching the other babies at church just fall asleep in the light or lying down, until one day I realized that it wasn’t ME it was S that made things different – she was a different baby. To mama’s with a reflux-y baby: you aren’t doing anything wrong. And it helps to talk to those moms with the “perfect babies” and find out that their babies also have sleep issues.
I’m thankful our doctor didn’t push meds and was open to us trying other things – probiotics ended the diaper change crying from lying flat on her back, though didn’t help with sleeping. She told us signs of dairy sensitivity which helped when S had some mucousy poop because then we knew what to do. We tried a homeopathic remedy but it didn’t seem to help much long term.
Really I don’t know what helped. We did a lot of things: clipped her small tongue tie (mostly because I was still in some pain nursing when she was 6 weeks), gave her probiotics, dealt with my fast let-down and oversupply, eliminated foods… she got older and started sucking her thumb (more saliva + more swallowing = less acid coming up) and sleeping on her tummy, and when she started solids we spent a while just doing gelled bone broth in an attempt to re-seal her gut (and only then was I able to reintroduce dairy and gluten, but that may have just been coincidence).
Helpful link: The Great Baby Reflux Epidemic (Or Not)
Here’s to year two and all of the laughter and tears it will bring! All glory to God for bringing us through this first wonderful year of parenthood.