Painting with Poo

2 08 2011

I see a glob the size of a flattened tennis ball askew on the green foam star by the gate before entering the nursery. I look up a bit and see Sidney squatting, wearing only her diaper, finger painting with a moss-green colored substance.

This substance is poo. 

I pause while I stare at Sidney’s smiling face as she runs her fingers through the e-coli laden poo in arches around her. There are books upon books surrounding her. I can see smears of poo on their covers and bindings.

My stomach clenches and I wish for my husband to magically appear to save me from this germy mess.

I enter the nursery and pick up a happy Sidney, her arms held out wide as I hold her a foot away from me while walking down the hallway. I place her into the freshly sanitized tub. I ruminate over the irony; while I was disinfecting the bathroom my daughter was infecting her baby-proofed nursery just fifteen feet down the hall.

I turn on the water then peel off the adhesive on her diaper and see in surprise, whole pieces of mango from two days prior and a piece or two of blueberry from that morning’s breakfast. I quickly glance around me and realize I have nothing to put the horridly messy diarrhea-laden diaper into.

I walk backwards keeping my eye on Sidney as she plays in inches of feces-infested water complete with floating chunks of undigested fruit and other unidentified objects formerly known as food. I fumble to open the cabinet with one hand, trying to use the magnetic key to disengage the safety mechanism on the other side of the door and then open the door with my only two clean fingers left. At least I hope they’re still clean.

Diaper disposed, I sigh and face the reality of the work ahead of me. I throw my husband’s safari-printed towel on the ground to kneel on and grab Sidney’s washcloth. Lathering it up I drain the tub once and then again, willing the chunks to whittle down the drain. A soaped up Sidney squats to play with the moving chunks despite my feeble attempt at redirecting her attention. I’m still too engrossed in the horror to be mindfully present and wondering how many books will have to meet the fate of the trash.

Minutes later and freshly clean in a new outfit from the Gap Outlet store I place Sidney in her decorative crib and throw every toy within my reach inside. I figure this will buy me ten minutes of speed cleaning.

I set my mind quickly to task and grab a roll of paper towels and a CVS shopping bag for trash.

Throwing rhymed and pleasant words away with their colorful illustrations of animals and cheery outdoor days makes me wonder if doing so will entice bad omens. Fortunately only one book I deemed hazardous waste and the remainder, with only a smear or two, I cleaned with the god-sent Seventh Generation disinfecting spray. Later that night I steam-clean the books for added measure. I ponder whether anyone has ever done this before.

Every child has a poo story and I look forward to embarrassing Sidney at a family dinner 16 years from now with hers.



If teething was an art

20 07 2011

If teething was an art, it would be a painting of bright red smears on a black canvas. Hence, ugly. And ugly describes Sidney’s experience with teething the past few weeks.

I see two tiny mounds of opaque whiteness protruding from Sidney’s lower gum. Like camel humps rising above a dune, the tooth is barely visible and apparently it is enjoying its nearly incognito status. Initially when I described the eruption of her first tooth to friends and family, I heard repeatedly: “oh, the tooth will just pop out overnight!”

Look *really* closely and you can see the camel. Just kidding! Oh, and thanks

It has been three weeks and I have to accept that this tooth missed its overnight debut. And keeps missing it.

Sidney doesn’t care for this process either. I know when she is in serious discomfort from teething; not due to her screaming but to her refusal to take medicine, cold teething rings or her ice pop (you know, that contraption that looks like one of those ring pops from childhood but the top, aka the candy gem, twists off so you can stuff ice cubes in it). Normally, she will gladly suck on her ice pop then let it melt all over the kitchen floor before painting water circles on the ceramic tile floor.

Reasoning with a 10 month old is, of course, absurd, but I attempt to tell her the medicine, ice pop, homeopathic teething pellets etc. will make her feel better. Her screams rise in decibel which I am afraid is merely one notch away from breaking my Tiffany wedding champagne glasses.

I don’t like giving Sidney medicine. Not because she throws a tantrum and thrashes her head from side to side (OK, so I don’t like that either) but because I just don’t like the potential side effects of medicines. But I also don’t like nights of restlessness, screaming and even less sleep than I usually get, so CVS tylenol wins out at bedtime.

I recently discovered the benefits of Humphrey’s teething pellets and by golly, they work! At least long enough to settle her down to nurse whilst awaiting the arrival of the elusive sleep gods. I have tried several homeopathic teething remedies and thought I tried them all. Fortunately I bitched about Sidney’s teething woes to my dear friend Facebook and learned of Humphrey’s existence.

Thus, the work of teething art continues, but at least some of the ugliness is subdued thanks to both old and new medicines. Perhaps when the work of art is complete, my description will go from “ugly” to “cute.”

For crying it out loud! Synapses must be formed

5 07 2011

Sidney sucks on her finger for a moment before she pokes it
onto my nose. She has a grin on her face and I know it will be another long
night getting her to fall asleep.

She proceeds to jump up and down on her knees a couple
times. Her organic sleep sack is stretched tight from the way she is sitting.
She rolls onto her back and plays with the zipper.  “Vroot, vroot.”

She practices her cow sounds. Or possibly elephant sounds. I’m not quite sure which animal she is imitating.

She proceeds to untie my pink and green paisley pajama
drawstrings from the Pottery Barn. She looks pleased with herself.

I let her poke, bounce, roll and babble for thirty minutes
or so. I’ve learned to let her expend her energy before the sleep gods make
their final descent. (That is, after another round, or two, or three of

“Dear, I’m telling you, you need to let her cry it out.” My father tells me this over

dinner the prior night. His girlfriend chimes in with agreement.

Perhaps I should make them read articles on the development
of a baby’s brain; how the developing brain from birth to age three forms
synapses essential for language, emotions, thought etc. at a rapid rate of
millions per second. These synapses
are molded by experience and practice. [i]

The practice of crying it out, in theory, must form
synapses. In Sidney’s case, crying it out would equate to hours upon hours of
screaming, wailing, sobbing and choking. I frankly refuse to entertain the idea
and shudder to think what type of synapses form from this practice.

Sidney cries and fusses enough despite her nearly 24 hour
attachment to me, with the exception of a two or three hour window after
putting her down to sleep at night before I join her so that I can eat, clean and
perhaps even watch a DVR’d episode Desperate Housewives  (this is major

progress in case you’re wondering). I don’t need to add any unneeded stress to our lives.

Teething, which I have recently decided is the work of the devil, results in enough
unneeded stress with its occasional scream-as-if-dying-by-being-stabbed night
awakenings. I just hope she gets a tooth soon from this devilish torture.

Nine months gestation

6 06 2011

Nine months
inside the womb is the epitome of maternal comfort. In contrast, the first nine
months outside the womb is disorienting and sometimes scary. Dr. Sear’s, the
famed mother-supporting pediatrician, theorizes that the first nine months of a
baby’s life outside the womb is the final stage in gestation.
During this time, a baby needs the safety of her mother’s arms,
or to be close enough beside her to smell and reach out to her
all day and night.

Yet, our
culture is saturated with the thinking that beyond three months endless
hugging, cuddling and comfort will spoil the baby. The new mantra becomes: let
her cry; he needs to learn to be away from mommy; he needs to sleep by himself.

Unlike the visible
marks left on delicate skin from diaper rash, the “cry it out” routine leaves
an emotional rash that cannot be seen. Both mom and baby feel its burn. Both
suppress the pain from days, weeks and months of comfortless naps and nights.
Mothers are told that baby will never learn to put herself to sleep. Mothers
are warned that she’ll coddle her son into a mommas’s boy. But when a mother’s instinct
is supported and respected and when she receives enough care from spouse,
family and/or friends to prevent her from falling into a mode of desperation,
then she will make the best nurturing decision for her child.

I regret remembering
the feelings of desperation. I regret ever feeling desperate enough to try. I regret
the piercing, choking and sobbing cries that lasted for one hour and fifteen
minutes on one long miserable night back in December. Sidney was 14 weeks old.
I was tired, confused and desperate for sleep. I had been made to believe that
a sleeping schedule would come naturally, easily and that my child would suffer
without one.

Sidney was
not a bad sleeper from 6 to 12 weeks. She blessed me with a 4 or 5 hour stretch
of sleep every night. After the days of colic, I was ecstatic and thriving! But
then the 3 month growth spurt hit us hard at 13 weeks. We went from peaceful
nights back to more colicky-type nights. She nursed every hour on the hour the
first night and every 1.5 hours for the next two nights, then every two hours
thereafter. A week of this and I felt like a ghost made to walk the earth in unrest

This is how
the horrific night of crying came about. I try to wish it away, pretend I
didn’t succumb to the callous choice of “cry it out.” But I did, and my
experience solidified a resolve in me that allowing my child to cry, choke and
sob herself into submission is not the choice either of us is willing to make.
I would rather wear dark circles like a badge of early motherhood days than teach
my child I only respond to her needs for love and comfort during the day.

I am blessed
to have a husband who supports me faithfully in my parenting methods and a few
friends who model and support my belief in attachment parenting. They consoled
me in my frustration by reminding me of the nine month gestation period outside
the womb. I clung to this theory like lichen to a rock.

Now that
Sidney is nine months old, I am beginning to see the positive changes in her
sleep habits. It is not continual progress at this point but I cling onto the
hope that one day soon I may have the luxury of sleeping more than three hours
at a stretch and enjoying quiet nights with my husband once again.

Bad Art

24 05 2011

Stainless steel, my husband insisted upon it. I have to admit;
it gleams nicely after a cleaning and reflects the natural glimmer in our
granite countertops. But once or twice a day, the stainless steel becomes a
canvas for master food artist, Sidney. Prunes, sweet potatoes or freshly
steamed pears splatter like bad art masking the gleaming surface. I’d like a
raise in pay. After all, it was my husband’s idea to spend the extra money on
stainless steel; the fifteen minutes I spend cleaning and shining it, I could
spend cleaning myself.

Meal time brings out Sidney’s fickleness. Some meals on some
days she shows a voracious appetite that my husband and I can relate to. For
thin people, we eat an awful lot. Healthy foods mind you, but we also admit (as
products of the 80’s) that we like our Dairy Queen.

Most meals are unfortunately, a struggle of some nature. I
try my best to smile and not care, but I do care. I want my child to like and
appreciate good food. She might only be days shy of nine months but surely she
can appreciate the quality of a deeply colored organic yam compared to
conventional baby food mush, right?

I’ve stumbled upon two tricks of the trade: self-eating and
the hold-and-eat. Both have serious logistical drawbacks. The self-eating model
results in the aforementioned stainless steel art; the latter results in a
beefy, albeit fatigued, left bicep muscle complete with a dirty rotator-cuff. I
use whatever tactic I feel will work best for that moment. And if both fail, I remind
myself to take a deep breath, pop the cover back on the carrots and look
forward to the stainless steel food art of the next meal.

Nighttime parenting

16 05 2011

The human hand contains four main nerves that receive
information from cell neurons within the hand. I feel each neuron in my hand pulse
as I rub Sidney’s back and the tingling sensation that results from the
constant back and forth motion radiates into my arm. I should, in theory, rub
her back for ten more minutes to ease her into the next, deeper sleep cycle.
But my nerves protest. I gradually slow down my hand movements, second by
second, until I stop completely. I keep my hand gently pressed upon her back
and then start to ease the pressure. I hold my breath, my stomach clenches. Is
she? Could she be asleep? I hold my breath for a few seconds longer. Just when
I begin to rest my head back down upon the bed, she twitches. She shoots up in a
crawl position and turns around 90 degrees and makes a soft thud sound as she
drops back down to the bed. I start counting silently, one one thousand, two one
thousand, three one thousand…

Up again, and now she crawls toward me in a drunken manner
and slams her forehead against mine. Her head falls under my chin for a second
before she presses her left hand against my chest, grabbing skin and breast as
she props herself up onto her hands and knees. She obviously is not falling
back asleep without nursing.

I reach for her as she crawls away from me and I place her next
to me so that we’re laying side-by-side facing each other. I arrange my sleep
bra and her mouth instantly grasps onto my breast. I wait a few minutes in
anticipation, watching her eyes shut tighter and tighter, and soon become aware
that her sucking has slowed down. Her vice-like grip begins to ease and I can
barely feel her mouth moving rhythmically on my breast. Now is the time to

For the past week, I have been trying to implement Elizabeth
Pantley’s (author of No Cry Sleep
methods to gently ease Sidney into dream world for longer
stretches of time. I see improvements, but it is too soon to gage results.

Nighttime parenting has endeared itself to me. Regardless of
my nightly joy four to eight times each night, I need better sleep now that her
9 month mark is approaching and my energy reserve is on empty. I am not looking
for her to sleep through the night. I think I would be sad at this point to let
go of all wee-hour feedings. But two times a night would enhance the joy and my
level of energy. I might even regain some of my verbal skills. My poor husband
is exasperated with my directions: “Put this over there near the
thing-a-ma-jig. No! Not there! What do you think I mean?”

For now, I will remind myself to enjoy these moments. After
all, I would rather wake up to my child needing me than blink and find myself
sixteen years in the future, waking up to find my child trying to sneak out of
the house!

She Ain’t Heavy, She’s my Daughter

6 05 2011

Sidney is equivalent to three and a half five-pound bags of potatoes on my chest. I have yet to try her wrapped on my back. I probably
should switch her back and forth; perhaps I can even out the soreness and muscle cramps. I’m not complaining though; putting her to sleep in my organic Boba soft-structured carrier with its cute 70s-style birds printed on the front is amazingly easy compared to the process of nursing her to sleep to stay asleep (for more than 40 minutes), cuddled up safe next to me at night and for the infamous morning nap.

The day the morning nap is officially a thing-of-the-past is a day I look forward to with utter glee. Continuing her tradition of
inconsistency (likely acquired from my consistent inconsistent nature), Sidney will span a few days with glorious two hour morning naps that abut frustrating mornings of no naps, 40 minute naps (or as Elizabeth Patel, author of the no cry nap solution calls, OCSS: One
Cycle Sleep Syndrome), or one hour “nursing naps.” Since I am either sitting reading or resting right next to her, I am ready at a moment’s notice to offer her ultimate sleep aid before she fully awakens – my breast. Some days it works, other days she immediately flips onto her stomach, pushes herself up and climbs on my face wearing a huge grin.

Regardless, co-sleeping has been my savior. I still ponder why it is considered such a “dirty” word in American culture when it is
practiced world-wide and has been for centuries and when safe crib sleeping can still result in deaths. I hope you don’t think I am making light of SIDS; the thought of Sidney passing away in her sleep, unable to wake herself up to catch her next breath makes my stomach shake violently, and my heart melts for parents who have experienced such a devastating tragedy. But Sidney never took to the crib, not even for a split second. Not even in the hospital when she was “supposed” to be sleepy. Sidney’s first moments outside the womb were amazingly
alert. Her wide, bright eyes and pink skin, free from vernix, shined gloriously as I looked down at her upon my stomach in a state of nirvana-shock.

Forcing Sidney to sleep in her crib, I feel, is cruel. Sure, shuddering sobs and choking gasps of breath may not harm her physically in the long-run, but what about her emotional well-being? Why do too many pediatricians focus only on a child’s physical health and not their emotional health too? After all, what I do throughout her infancy will set the foundation for how she responds emotionally throughout life. I’ve seen and lived with enough mental illness to try my damnedest to provide my child with a loving, emotionally stable foundation.

But co-sleeping has also been trying. Physically it often has me in acrobatic poses that my chiropractor cringes at. My bladder has been
known to throb in over-capacity and my limbs often tingle in defiance. Even the common sneeze is an enemy of co-sleeping. Most of the physical side-effects of co-sleeping come from a lack of planning on my part. I forgot the Boppy or the extra pillow; I forgot to move down a few inches so my head isn’t tilted into the headboard; or I didn’t make that last pit-stop before heading into the bedroom.

Mentally, my mind drifts in funny ways. Some days I organize my grocery-shopping list. Efficiency after all has been drilled into my psyche since childhood days. Other times I find myself lamenting how many months longer poor Sassy cat has to share her father with spiteful Chloe cat. And other times, well, on second thought, I better keep that to myself. For you fellow breastfeeding mothers out there, you likely have felt the out-of-place euphoria that just seems blatantly perverse considering the circumstance.

Emotionally, co-sleeping provides peace-of-mind and comfort to me on goods nights. But as I have already mentioned, Sidney‘s sleep patterns are inconsistent. Once or twice a week I have to handle the effects of teething discomfort, gas pains or something I did but can’t figure out, likely the result of groggy mind. And then there is the monthly full moon when my whole house shakes in fright. With four cats and an infant, a full moon can bring about unpleasant and lively nightly awakenings. Whatever the reason, these “curveball”
nights can make me dream of pre-Sidney days, days where I slept until 10am on the weekends and nights of eight hours of solid sleep.

However, these feelings quickly vanish when I look down at Sidney and see her peaceful o-shaped mouth, relaxed and innocent,
and her full, fluttering eyes dreaming of comfort and love. I know I am making the best choice for her. When I feel we’re both ready to move onto sleeping alone, then I will gently take the steps necessary to make that happen. Until then, the occasional physical, emotional and mental hiccups are bearable sacrifices I will make, whether grunting in frustration to myself or feeling my heart lift in gladness. Peace.