Friday, October 7, 2011

Closing Remarks

Considering that the last time I updated this blog, my now-6-month-old was only 3 months old, most of you who've kept me in your reader feed have probably guessed that I'm done with blogging. And you would be right.

Like most of you, I started this blog to find help and comfort during the TTC battle. Then I was overwhelmingly blessed to get pregnant and give birth to my beautiful baby boy. Throughout the infertility saga and pregnancy, I was working a job that..ahem...allowed me a certain amount of free time to piddle around on the computer. Then we took off and lived in China for 10 weeks, where I had even more time to myself, with few friends and no kitchen to speak of.

Now we're back home, for the time being. We have friends in the area. I have a Moms group at our church to attend. I have a kitchen that provides me with a seemingly infinite list of projects (both for fun and to save as much money as possible, since we're down to one measly grad student income), and a baby who only naps twice a day and who actually enjoys playing with me when he's awake. Not to mention the endless list of books I'd like to read. I'm a stay-at-home mom of one fairly compliant child, so one would think I would have more time than when I was working full-time. But I've filled that time up with things I love to do and have found blogging getting pushed farther down on the list of priorities.

Thus, the blog has been neglected. Rather than stressing myself out by adding it to my to-do list, I've cut it out. My sense is that, if I enjoyed blogging or still needed it, I would have time for it. But, apparently, I don't.

I still read some of your blogs and am following your journeys. And I miss you all. But for now, this blog has run its course. I hated to leave it hanging so inconclusively, so this serves as its conclusion. Of course I'll leave it out there on the internet, in case someone else ever stumbles upon it and finds comfort or amusement from its contents.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

14 Weeks

We've made it to our last week in China! I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to update next week. We'll be on the plane next Saturday, hopefully with a sleeping baby.

This has been a week of some big changes for Brax, and also a slightly more frustrating week for me. Or I should say, part of me gets frustrated with the constant mid-nap wakings and the sudden middle-of-the-night wakings, and the other part of me stands aloof and laughs at what small things become so huge when you have a baby. The big changes we went through? Letting both arms out of the swaddle, extending daytime feeds, and dropping the dreamfeed. Pretty monumental. Right up there with starting kindergarten and puberty, I would say.

Sarcasm aside, it does feel good to have transitioned with those things before we leave and to have a week to adjust before we throw a total day/night reversal at ourselves and our baby. At least we'll know what kind of routine to aim for as we all adjust from jet lag, live in three different places, travel to Georgia, and then travel home. By which time Brax will be 4 1/2 months old and certainly have gone through even more transitions.

Did I mention that he and I will be in a different house every week for the next six weeks? Between now and September 1, we'll actually have been in 7 different houses, 2 countries, 2 states, 3 time zones (not counting the ones we cross), and at least 6 different planes. Fun times! I am looking forward to the Georgia visit. But I'm also looking forward to September 1 and being able to relearn what settled feels like.

Now for the extended version of the weekly summary...

Night Sleep
While Brax is still going all night without being fed, he's started waking in the middle of the night and fussing for a few minutes before falling back asleep. I actually did feed him one night when I woke up and was afraid he had already been crying for a while. But I don't think he needed it. He's also started waking between 6:15 and 6:45 before I get him at 7. Sometimes I don't even realize he's been awake but he's awake when I get him. Other times, he chatters or fusses a little off and on. It doesn't seem to bother him, though.

In the midst of those disruptions, we decided to go ahead and drop the dreamfeed. He was barely waking up for it and barely eating anything. So I thought he might sleep better at night without it. Thursday was the first day without it, and it didn't really seem to change much with the night sleep. So we're sticking with no dreamfeed for now, which means he goes to bed around 8 and gets up at 7. And usually sleeps 10-10.5 hours out of that 11-hour span. It's a very weird feeling to have him sleep so long, but soooo nice to have our evenings uninterrupted!

Day Sleep
The mid-nap waking that was an occasional problem before became more regular this week. He has been waking 30-60 minutes into most naps, fussing for 20-30 minutes, then falling back asleep. I've been confused as to whether I should keep him awake longer before each nap, as he often doesn't seem that tired when we put him down, or if he's overstimulated and needs to go down earlier. After some trial and error, I've decided that overtiredness doesn't keep him from falling asleep that often, even though it's apparently a big problem for most babies. So we're now trying to keep him up longer and not put him down until he really seems tired (either yawning and getting still or fussy). It worked great this morning--he was up for almost 2 hours but then slept soundly with no peeps for 1hr50m! We'll see how the rest of the day goes.

In the midst of all the other changes, I've also decided to mostly drop the 4th nap of the day. He was only usually sleeping about 30 minutes for it. In the process of dropping the dreamfeed and realizing he was sometimes undertired, we decided to shoot for 3 longer naps rather than 4 shorter ones. We've moved to a 3.5 hour schedule for most of the day, but with the last two feeds being only 2 hours apart and without a nap between them. This is day 2 of that schedule, so I can't say whether it's working or not yet. Though he did sleep better last night and fell asleep more easily at bed time.

He's pretty consistent at feeding for 15-20 minutes these days. I tried keeping him on longer a few times when I was afraid maybe he was growth spurting and I needed to increase milk supply, but he simply didn't want to. Our feeding schedule since we dropped the dreamfeed and 4th nap is 7:00, 10:30, 2:00, 5:30, and 7:30 (right before bed). Those are definitely very approximate times. I've also been pumping right before I go to bed at night, just because I'm nervous about keeping up my supply now that we've dropped to 5 feeds a day. I don't have any indications that this might be happening, but I just want to play it safe for now--at least until we go to the pediatrician next and get an accurate weight check.

We discovered Brax's limit on disruptions this week. We took him out for short activities last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, were home Monday, and then tried to take him out for a good chunk of the day on Tuesday to do some touring with some of Pete's Chinese lab mates. He napped pretty well in the sling during the morning. We fed him a bottle sitting on some stairs at the Forbidden City (with lots of people staring and taking pictures), then we had lunch. Our plan was to put him in the sling again and let him nap for the afternoon while we went to the Hutong. However, he hadn't napped well at all for his first nap of the day, then only for about 1hr and 15m for the second nap, and then we kept him up for almost 2 hours before the third. By then, sleep did not come so easily for him. He fell asleep for about 5 minutes but then woke up. And cried the rest of the afternoon. We were walking down the streets of the Hutong with a screaming baby. So fun. We decided we needed to get home, of course, but the taxi ride was still about 30 minutes. Brax screamed for about 20 of those 30 minutes, until I finally calmed him by holding him over my shoulder and patting his back.

Lesson learned: Brax can get overtired from too many disruptions. And his pleasant, sunny self disappears. Better to spread out the disruptions a little more and make sure he gets at least one good nap in the morning!

Growth and Development
Braxon's ability to grasp things and move them where he wants them is getting better. He still loves his gym, but I also sometimes just let him lay on the bed and look around without the stimulation of all the toys. He seems to like that for a few minutes at a time. He's discovering new sounds that he can make with his mouth, as well.

I do think he may have mild torticollis that probably caused the currently crooked flat head. He has great neck control, but when he's upright (standing or sitting), his head definitely tilts to his left. He's willing to sleep with his head turned either direction, but because it's flatter on his right side, that's naturally where he rests it. I kind of hope the pediatrician can give me a helmet that he can just wear while he's sleeping. I think that would solve the problem at this point. I don't want him to have to wear a helmet 24/7 if we can avoid it, but I don't see the flat spot rounding out on its own unless he becomes a tummy sleeper.


I'm getting dizzy from hunger. so I think it's time to stop and eat. One of the bonuses of living in China is that most restaurants do free delivery--with no tip required. But, we've learned that our address is a difficult one for delivery men to find. And Pete's Chinese isn't quite good enough to give them really clear directions over the phone. So we're currently waiting for Indian food to be delivered--and both starving. Come on, delivery man!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Finally Some Pictures

Lesley reminded me that it has been a long time since I've posted any pictures. So here are a few from our time here in China. We leave in one week!

At the Forbidden City. One of Beijing's must-sees, though it's not one of the most beautiful tourist sites. This was the part of the day he was happy. He threw a nice long fit that afternoon when we kept him up too long. That was a very fun taxi ride--a taxi driver, our two Chinese friends, and us, all cooped up in the car with an inconsolable screaming baby.

At the Summer Palace, which is one of the more beautiful tourist sites. This is how Brax looks most of the time we're out and about--headless.

Family picture taken with the self-timer function!

He's interested enough to look at cameras--now we just need to work on the smiling part!

Friday, July 8, 2011

3 Months Old!

My baby is no longer a newborn by anyone's definition of the term. And while I feel incredibly wistful and nostalgic whenever I see pictures of him during his first week, it's so fun to be able to play with a sturdier, more interactive baby whose personality is starting to peak through more and more.

I can say that more easily after the past few days, which have been fantastic. The first half of this week was...well, rough. Remember that Wonder Week I mentioned last week? I can now say with certainty that we went through it. The wonder weeks chart shows a fussy stage between 11.5 and 12.5 weeks. The first night where he cried inconsolably for a long time was right at 11.5 weeks, and the last night of it was this past Wednesday, at 12.5 weeks. I can't believe how textbook my child is! Since Thursday, he's been back to his sunny self with the addition of more motor control that I guess was developing during that wonder week--and the ability to roll!

We are winding down our time here in China and very excited to come home in exactly two weeks. I'm looking forward to California weather, a car, my friends, cooking.... I would say I'm looking forward to developing a new routine after we get through jet lag, but that actually probably won't come until September. We'll be housesitting at two different houses for the first two weeks after we get back, as our subletters will still be in our apartment. Then we'll be home for a week before I take off with Brax to Georgia for two weeks to visit family and friends (Pete will be joining us after the first week). I'm excited to see everyone and to introduce lots of family members to Braxon, but traveling is definitely more stressful with a little one! And of course, the whole trip happens to coincide with the next predicted wonder week. I'm praying we sail through that one--or at least don't notice it with all the disruptions!


Now for the longer version...

Night Sleep
We are so fortunate that the wonder week did not disrupt Brax's night sleep. He did take an hour or more of crying most nights before falling asleep, but then he slept just as soundly as before, until 7am. I've been waking him every morning, so I sense that he's ready to extend the night sleep even longer. So, after the wonder week was clearly over, I've started moving the dreamfeed a little earlier every night to hopefully eliminate it soon. I think he could probably make it at least 10-11 hours at this point. I'm hoping that doesn't cause any issues with my milk supply, so I'll be monitoring that carefully, for sure.

Day Sleep
During the wonder week, his naps were pretty awful. He fussed for a little while every time I put him down, but then he woke up within 45 minutes to 1 hour almost every single time and cried. Sometimes he would go back to sleep again, sometimes he wouldn't and I'd just get him up for the next feed. I was watching carefully to make sure it wasn't a growth spurt, as well, but he never seemed any hungrier than usual. The terrible napping was worst on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I was feeling really ragged from listening to crying so much (as a side note--rocking him does not help but just keeps him awake, and he eventually gets even fussier). Then, on Thursday, it was over. Since then, he's been back to sleeping 1hr15m to 1hr45m. In fact, I think he's been sleeping even better than before the wonder week. If he wakes up, he either cries for only a very few minutes before falling back asleep, or he talks to himself happily and looks around. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, the author says that babies' daytime sleep becomes more organized between 3 and 4 months, so maybe that's what's happening. His fourth nap of the day is usually only 30-40 minutes, so perhaps he'll be ready to drop down to 3 naps soon.

Brax is becoming more consistently faster at nursing. I'd say it takes an average of 20 minutes these days. He spits up a lot between feedings, so I've been careful to not encourage him to keep eating after he pulls off the boob the first time. I also wonder if he's getting fed more often than he needs to. Though I've never read that that can cause spitting up, it makes sense that it would, doesn't it? He's getting 6 feeds a day right now, but after we drop the dreamfeed (hopefully soon), it will be 5. I'm hoping I can spread them out a little more then. Since I've been having to wake him to feed him most times during the day (since the wonder week ended), it seems like he's ready to extend the time between feeds, take longer naps, and then maybe drop the fourth nap. I'm wondering if some of that will just happen naturally as we readjust from jet lag. But he also seems pretty young to go down to 4 feedings a day, so I definitely don't want to push it.

I decided the wonder week was not a good time to mess with the swaddle. But he definitely gained much better arm control over the past week. So, after two great nap days, we decided to try one arm out this morning--his left arm, to encourage him to turn his head to the left and hopefully round the back of his head out a bit! We watched him, and he did seem a bit confused by the fact that his arm could move around. He fussed for a minute or two, then talked for a few more minutes, and then got quiet and fell asleep for a nice long nap! Such a big boy! So I guess we'll probably be able to drop both the dreamfeed and the swaddle before we head home.

Growth and Development
Like I said above, the past week and a half have seen Brax through some pretty big developments. He is really good at grabbing things and moving them around intentionally now and loves doing it. He also rolled over for the first time! While he was doing tummy time one day, he lost his balance a bit on his elbows and leaned over enough to fall onto his side. That was purely accidental, but we started helping him do it sometimes to show him how. Then, one day, he started doing it on his own repeatedly, and making it onto his back! He usually looks startled but then gets excited (though that could be because I'm cheering and clapping my hands). He still seems to forget how to do it sometimes and get frustrated trying to make it happen, but other times he does it completely unprompted by me.

We took Brax out 3 times in the evening this week--way more than ever before. Pete's lab wanted to take us out for dinner one night and another night we were meeting a friend who couldn't meet any other time. We've learned that Brax doesn't really sleep when we take him out at night, even in the sling. He'll sleep in the sling when Pete's walking with it or in a moving vehicle, but not otherwise, and not at night. So he stayed up much later than usual those nights. However, he was so interested in all the new sights and faces that he didn't fuss much (only when we got him home and put him to bed, but that was also during the wonder week). He did well enough that we decided to go out to dinner ourselves last night, since it was our anniversary, and he again did great and, this time, went to sleep more quickly when we got home. We had brought bottles the other two nights, but I actually nursed at the restaurant last night with my handy nursing cover. We're not sure if that's culturally appropriate or not. The Chinese rarely bring young babies out, so we've never seen a woman breastfeeding in public here. Hopefully they're okay with us doing it. If not, we can still play the ignorant American card at this point. And the nursing cover keeps things modest :).

Enough time spent baby-gazing, I think. Happy weekend!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wonder Week 12

The Short Summary
There's a baby book out there that some of you may have heard of called The Wonder Weeks. The basic premise is that babies go through major leaps in their mental and physical development at around the same times--around 5 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 19 weeks, etc. During these developmental leaps, they are often fussier, clingier, and generally different than normal because their world is changing so rapidly. It's one baby book that I actually don't own and haven't read. However, I've heard enough about it from other moms to know that many have found it very accurate and helpful.

We are supposedly in the middle of Wonder Week 12 here. This was helpful and encouraging information this past week, which has been a more difficult week in some ways (outside of a couple of angel-baby days). Part of the difficulty was that I was single-momming it for the first half of the week. The rest was just that Brax was simply fussier than usual for several days. I actually resorted to nursing him to sleep at night twice, out of desperation. However, he has definitely been making some major strides in hand control, which is fun to watch.

Braxon was also apparently fantastic for his first ever non-grandparent babysitting experience. We dropped him off at our friends' apartment last night around 6:15. They were amazed at how good he was. We were a bit amazed, too, since he was coming off of several fussy days. But he took his bottle well and went to sleep easily. I think our friends were a bit jealous. They have identical twin boys who are now 6 but were apparently quite the handful as newborns--the kind that never stopped crying. I can only imagine!

That's the quick summary of the week. Read on  for more details, but I won't be offended if you skim :).

The Longer Version

Night Sleep
Still doing great in this department. The wingy days haven't affected his night sleep yet. Even the one night when he fussed and wouldn't sleep the whole evening, even after I tried nursing him to sleep, he still went right to sleep at the dreamfeed and slept until our morning wake time, which was a full 9 hours later. I think we're going to wait another week or two and then think about dropping the dream feed, though I want to either be finished with it before we travel back to the US or not mess with it until after we get there and are adjusted to CA time.

Day Sleep
We had two nearly perfect nap days, where I went down for naps without a peep and didn't wake up until I woke him. The rest of the days he often woke early, sometimes putting himself back to sleep and sometimes not. I also think he's at the point where the fourth nap of the day only needs to be a catnap of 30-40 minutes, especially if he's slept well all day. But we'll see how things even out with that.

Since we got to China, we got in a habit of putting a light blanket over his Pack n Play when he sleeps. This was because when we first got here, my in-laws were in what is now his room, and he was sleeping in an area that got really bright in the mornings. Then we were afraid to remove it in case he wouldn't sleep without it. But I decided to buckle down and try without it this week, and now he's pretty much weaned off it. I'm not sure if he really noticed the difference or not when I first took it off. He was waking up early from most naps, but it's hard  to say if the lack of cover was affecting that.

Brax has gotten one or both of his hands out of the swaddle a few times this week and still slept okay, so I think he's starting to drop it. We're still swaddling but are allowing the swaddle to be looser during the day. If his hands come out, we just leave them so that he'll learn to sleep like that. He's definitely into sucking his hands, so I'm hoping they might become part of his self-soothing process.

I definitely think he's taking in more and more during most nursing sessions. He must be, since he only gets 6 a day and is still gaining weight very well (up to about 13 pounds 10 ounces today). He still takes just as long, but I doubt he's getting much by the end on each boob. I'm probably letting him suck longer than he needs to since I'm usually engrossed in a book* :). But since neither of us is in any rush, I figure it's good bonding time for us--and easy entertainment. He's also started pulling off sometimes to smile and talk to me, which is pretty cute and funny. And he's started to grab my boob or clothes with his hands.

If the Wonder Weeks thing is for real, he's supposedly making a big leap in learning about "smooth transitions." I guess this means he'll be less jerky with hand and other movements. We have certainly noticed that he can move his hands and grasp things with more intentionality. He's paying attention to toys that he never showed interest in before. And he could be happy forever in his activity gym, grabbing the toys and staring at himself in the mirror. He's also finally gotten interested in books! This is very exciting for me. He will actually look at the book the whole time while I'm reading to him now, and yesterday, he was clearly trying really hard to touch it--and succeeding sometimes. I've been moving his hand to turn the pages, and he did it by himself once or twice last night. Who knows if it was random or not, but it definitely made my bookworm heart soar! Finally, he has rolled himself from tummy to back a few times. It's still accidental, when he's propped on his elbows and then leans over enough to fall over. He seems surprised but a little excited about it, so maybe he'll start doing it on purpose soon.

Witching Hour?
Like I said, I resorted to nursing Brax to sleep in the evening twice this week. And I tried several times last night, and he wouldn't stay asleep. But I'm wondering if he's experiencing a touch of a witching hour. Since Wednesday, he's had big problems falling asleep for his official bedtime (around 7:30-7:45) every other night. I know most babies experience this starting earlier than 12 weeks. But since he'll fall asleep fine for his daytime naps but then get so upset about being put to bed in the evening, I wonder what's going on. However, like Pete reminded me, it's only been 3 nights--and they weren't 3 in a row--so we can't really make any conclusions yet. I know it's not a good idea to let babies cry it out if they are experiencing a witching hour. But when, like last night, he won't calm down with anything else (rocking in various positions, nursing, playing, swaddled or not), what else can we do? If we had a swing or a carseat here, I'd definitely try those. Since we don't, Pete wants to give cry it out a real go if it happens again. At least our next-door neighbor here just moved out, so we don't have to worry about a screaming baby bothering her! I might need to listen to music with headphones to keep from crying myself, though.

Awake Time
I wanted to write down what we usually do when Brax is awake between nursing and going down for a nap. He seems to need much more awake time than many Babywise babies. Other moms talk about their babies only being about to handle 45-60 minutes at this stage, including feeding time. Brax, however, usually goes 75-90 minutes. If we put him down too early, he protests much more than if he's really tired. And getting overtired doesn't seem to be too much of a problem. This leaves me with a lot of time to keep him entertained during the day! I usually make sure to fit in a good chunk of independent play time (in his activity gym with me close by) and tummy time several times during the day. Three times a week, his afternoon awake time is with his daddy, while I go to language tutoring. His evening awake time (right before bed) is usually spent strapped in his stroller near the table while we eat dinner--the stroller is the closest thing we have to an infant seat here. The rest of the time, I sing to him and do motions, talk to him, read to him (not always baby books--I've read Shakespeare and Nourishing Traditions to him this week, both of which he was thrilled by), let him play with toys, and find other interesting games to play. I've also strapped him facing outward in the sling a few times while cooking or doing laundry. He enjoys this, but he's getting heavy and I tire out quickly! I don't know how people who believe really firmly in baby-wearing can do it all day! I guess you develop strong shoulder and back muscles.

I think that's about all I wanted to record for posterity this week. A good friend of mine just had baby #2. Of course we haven't been able to visit yet, but it's so cute looking at the pictures and watching the older sister, who will be 2 in September, meet her new baby sister! It makes me actually look forward to having our next one, though I'm definitely not ready to think about being pregnant again yet. We haven't decided how long we want to wait before trying again. I'm guessing it will take a looong time for my body to start ovulating again. But I'm really hoping and praying that pregnancy--and my improved diet and lifestyle--has done good for my hormones, and that the next one will happen naturally.

*I'm currently engrossed in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. It's beautifully written, though fairly dark and sad and emotionally affecting, at least for me. Part of the premise is essentially that infertility has become more widespread because of pollution, etc. It's all very interesting and imaginative. Anyone else read it? I'm also always open to other book suggestions now that I get so much time to read!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baby Products

This post has been stewing in my mind for a few weeks, so I'm finally sitting down to write it. I thought I'd mention a few baby products that are a little out of the mainstream that I found and have loved. These are mostly things that I had to do a little research to discover, knowing that we would have specific and unique needs, both with coming to China and with living in a small apartment.

The Puj Tub: I was really excited to find this baby bathtub. It looked perfect both for small apartment living and for folding up and fitting in a suitcase. It's basically a flat piece of soft foam that snaps into a bathtub shape and fits into your bathroom sink. It has worked fantastically for Brax. He's getting close to being too big for it now--he looks a little scrunched when we put him in. But I think it will work until we get back home in a few weeks. I know we could have probably just bathed him in the sink, but that idea freaks me out a bit. The sink surface is so hard and cold! And we don't have a bathtub here in China, so it isn't an option to take him in a bath with us. When we do get back to the US, I'm hoping to transition straight so something that sits in our bathtub. I've heard it works well to get a Bumbo seat and suction it to the bathtub. We don't have much counter space in either the kitchen or the bathroom for a separate baby bathtub.

On the subject of bathtubs--anyone have any other good ideas for how to bathe the baby while traveling? We'll be flying to visit my parents and some friends in August, and I think Brax will be too big for the Puj Tub. Do I just use the sinks wherever we are? Or take baths with him? He'll be a little over 4 months old at that point.

My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow and Travel Nursing Pillow: For some reason, the Boppy has gained more popularity than this (awkwardly named but totally awesome) nursing pillow. Fortunately, I had a couple of friends who told me when I was pregnant that the My Brest Friend was far superior to the Boppy, so that's what I registered for. And then my sister-in-law was thoughtful enough to buy me the inflatable travel version, which has been a lifesaver. There's no way the non-inflatable one would have fit in our suitcases.

First of all, if you breastfeed, you spend LOTS of time doing it. If you're sitting in a weird position or straining your back, you're going to feel the effects. Or if you  have to hold your baby the whole time and don't have your hands free, you're going to get very bored. It's so worth it to make breastfeeding a comfortable and enjoyable experience! Even though I do it six times a day for 20-30 minutes each time (and that's less than it was at the beginning), I still look forward to it. And I have gotten so much reading done because I can breastfeed with my hands free!

Many women seem to be happy just using pillows while nursing. I have tried this, both in the hospital and in the past few days when my inflatable pillow sprang a leak (it is now fixed with super glue--yay!). It is not comfortable for me. The baby just slides down into the crack between me and the pillows. And football hold, which is my favorite, is much harder.

Reasons why My Brest Friend is awesome:
1) It wraps around your body, giving you back support and a place to rest the baby's legs as he gets longer and you still want to do football hold. The Boppy does not wrap all the way around.
2) It has a clasp that you can tighten, so it stays close to your body and the baby doesn't slip into the crack between you and the pillow.
3) It's flat and firm on the top, which also helps keep the baby in place and not slipping off.
4) It has a little pocket that's perfect for storing nipple cream, gas drops, baby fingernail clippers, and anything else you might use frequently while feeding.

MaxiMom Baby Carrier:  What is it with these companies and their awkward names? Oh well. We have loved  this baby carrier. I picked it out because it seemed more versatile than other carriers out there and was a bit cheaper than the Ergo or Baby Bjorn. And it works for newborns without any special insert or anything. You can wear it on your front or back, with the baby facing in or out, or angled as a sling. You can also carry the baby laying down in it (we haven't tried this). And it works as a make-shift high chair, when we get to that point. It has good back support and has fit both me and Pete well. And it seems to be very high quality. Also, it's apparently the only carrier out there that could work for triplets (if you buy 3 baby harnesses). I'd like to see someone strong enough to carry three babies around for longer than 5 minutes!

Those are the main items. We have also loved the Summer Infant SwaddleMe swaddlers, our City Mini stroller, our Graco Travel Lite Pack n Play, and lots of other things--and some things we haven't needed that we thought we would , of course. But those are all more obvious. I will make one note about the swaddlers. I thought before we had a baby that special swaddlers were pointless--why couldn't you just use receiving blankets, or the Aden + Anais muslin swaddlers? I did register for a few of the SwaddleMes, though, and was given even more than I registered for. I'm so glad! We tried several times in the beginning to swaddle Brax in the muslin wraps, and there was no way those things were holding his arms in, no matter how tightly we wrapped! And any receiving blankets were just too hot for the summer. Maybe some babies would stay in the muslin wraps, but it's hard to imagine.

One last note--you can never have too many burp cloths. And I prefer using the thin white squares sold as cloth diapers than the fancy flannel ones.


In other news, Pete and I are going out on a hot date tonight to celebrate our fifth (!!!) anniversary. Our actual anniversary is next Friday, but our babysitting resources are limited here. The only family we felt like we knew well (they used to live near us in California and went to our church) enough to ask to babysit was only available tonight. So we'll be dropping Brax off at their place with a bottle and a Pack n Play and going out to a shwanky restaurant for dinner. Brax has been a bit off from his usual sunny self this week and having trouble going down to sleep at night, so we're crossing our fingers that he's sweet for them!

We actually spent our first anniversary in China, and now we're spending our fifth here. Pretty cool! I think we had always imagined we'd do something more grandiose for the fifth, not knowing that we would have a very young baby at this point. But we're thrilled to actually get a night out sans baby!

Friday, June 24, 2011

11 weeks

This has been one of the nicest weeks so far in Brax's life--at least for me. We had a bit of a breakthrough with naps, he's been sleeping over 8 hours most nights, and he's been happy, alert, and interactive when awake. What more could I ask for in an 11-week-old?

Night Sleep
...has been terrific. My baby is sleeping through the night by anyone's definition. He goes to bed around 7:30ish (whenever he looks tired enough) and is usually asleep within 15 minutes. He does protest a bit if we put him down before he's really tired, but he still goes with it eventually. Then I get him up at 9:45 to feed again and put him straight back down (he's pretty much asleep by the end of that feed anyway). We've often heard some peeps at around 6am, but he quiets back down and either falls back asleep or lays in bed contentedly (I don't know which since I can't see him) until I go get him at 7. And then he's super happy and interactive in the mornings.

Like I said, we had a breakthrough with naps this week that also had a big effect on the night sleep. On Monday and Tuesday, he started waking early from naps again. I was frustrated and confused. It seemed like every time he started to become more consistent, he would start waking early again. Then I wouldn't know if I should feed him or should wait until the normal feed time, and he would be tired too early for the next nap, so it was just a vicious cycle. It was stressing me out, mostly because I felt like I was doing something wrong. Other Babywise moms all seemed to be able to get these nice, predictable schedules at this point. But I didn't want to risk not feeding him if he was waking out of hunger.

He helped me out on Tuesday morning, though. I decided to feed him whenever he woke up for a day and see if the problem corrected itself. However, after waking early from his first nap, he was clearly not interested in eating, which is extremely rare for him. He ate for a few minutes then just kept stopping and pulling off. So I knew for sure that the early waking was not a hunger issue. After that, I decided to give cry-it-out a go when he woke up early.

Other Babywise moms are hesitant to do cry-it-out when babies wake early from naps. They'll do it before naps but not mid-nap, especially this young. However, my gut was telling me that cry-it-out was what Brax needed. It seems confusing that I wouldn't rescue him when he cried before naps but would after--how was he supposed to figure out a pattern? And he was waking consistently after 45 minutes, which is when babies go through a sleep transition. So I realized he needed to learn to self-soothe and put himself back to sleep. If we had our swing here, I probably would have picked him up and put him in the swing to finish his naps. But we don't, and every time I've tried rocking him back to sleep, it doesn't work (he often just gets more angry).

So Pete and I determined to give CIO at least a week. And it was magic! Though he woke up early for the next nap and cried for a while, he actually went back to sleep on his own! After that, the mid-nap crying has diminished greatly. Though he still wakes up early pretty often, he just yells a bit for a while and then gets quiet and is often back to sleep by the time I get him for the next feeding. So we have predictability in our days, which has enabled me to relax and enjoy him so much more, since I'm not always worrying about having to go rescue him earlier than I expected.

I think this is also what made things click with the night sleep and morning wake times. He was consistently waking at 6, which was still over 7 hours sleep, so pretty good. I was planning to slowly extend things to 7, which seemed a much nicer wake time for me. However, the day after we started CIO mid-nap, I heard him make some noise at 6. I decided to wait a little while and see if he would go back to sleep. And he did, within about 5 minutes! I was stunned. He and I both slept straight until 7, when I went to get him so we could start our day.

Now I actually feel much more confident that I will know when he's going through a growth spurt, because I think the early waking and crying will be different than the light, on-and-off fussing he does at times now.

We took Brax out for a "late" evening for this first time this week. It helped so much to have a more predictable schedule in place so we could plan our evening a bit. A family I know from before invited us to their apartment for dinner last night, starting at 7. He actually woke early from his last nap anyway (the last nap is definitely the worst for him--I'm thinking it needs to be quite a bit shorter than the others), so we transferred him to the sling to take him over. I brought a bottle and planned to feed when we got there. Our friend offered to feed him so I could eat, so I let her do that. But he seemed so content that she concluded he wasn't hungry. I knew that wasn't the case and that she just wasn't holding the bottle the way he was used to. But I let it go and let her play with him a while. We finally got her to try again (around 8--an hour and a half later than he normally eats and 4 hours after the last feeding), and he took it pretty well, though it took a while with lots of distractions. He was so happy and content the whole time, though--too interested in the new surroundings to be grumpy, I guess. We finally got him back in the sling to try to get him to sleep around 8:45, and that's when the overtiredness hit and he started fussing. So we left. He napped in the sling until I fed him at 9:45 and put him down. He did wake up at 5, and I decided he deserved some grace after the late night and fed him. He went back to sleep until 7 and seems back to normal today.

I'm so thankful we have a little guy who doesn't make a huge fuss when he mess with his routine every now and then. He's usually okay, we just have to accept that we may pay for it with a slightly fussier baby or less sleep at night if we go out late in the day. So the outing needs to be worth it, and we need to accept those consequences without blaming Brax!

Growth and Development
Brax is enjoying tummy time more and especially likes it laying on my chest with his mirror close by to look at. He's grasping his toys more often--still on accident, I think, but he's working so hard to figure it all out! He's starting squealing quite a bit this week, along with making lots of other noises. But he only talks if he's looking straight at a face, or sometimes to the toys in his gym. Otherwise, he stays pretty quiet and observant of the world around him. I put him on the bed one morning to watch me while I exercised, and he seemed pretty fascinated. He kept kicking his legs like he was trying to imitate me...but that may be just me being overly aspirational :).

I'll stop there. I just wanted to put out a quick disclaimer before ending. I may come across as being a super confident mom in these posts. I'm not always! I definitely think that following a routine has helped me gain lots of confidence and get to know my baby and his needs better. But I'm someone who thrives on routine, so I knew I needed that to be a happy mommy. And Brax must take after me, because he's responded to the routine better than I could have hoped. But I've had many moments of confusion and frustration. It's very good for me and reminds me that the routine is truly not my end goal at all. And that all stages will change into something different at some point!

Okay, enough said. Time to eat and head to Walmart. That is, Wa er ma.

Oh, and wish me luck--or pray for me if you do that--this week. Pete's headed to Shanghai from Sunday through Wednesday, so I'll be trying my hand at being a single mom. I probably won't get out of the apartment much. At least we just got a vpn, so I may be able to watch some movies online if I'm lucky. And I think Brax will be sleeping in my room for a few nights to keep me company!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

To Break Up the Monotony

We just finally got a VPN working--only a month before we head home. Oh well. So I thought I'd break up the monotony of the weekly updates with a few pictures of my little man.

He's starting to enjoy tummy time a little bit more!

And now for the smiles...

Friday, June 17, 2011

10 Weeks

My little xiaohair is 10 weeks old! 10 weeks sounds old to me, for some reason. The first half of this week was a little off, but the second half of this week has been great. His off-ness actually helped us accidentally happen onto a new evening schedule that has extended his night sleep. Now I can sometimes get just enough sleep between his dreamfeed and when he wakes up in the morning! With no interruptions! Yippee!

Night Sleep
We'll start off here since I was just talking about it. At the beginning of this week, our routine was to feed him around 7pm, do a bedtime routine (reading a book, singing Amazing Grace), and putting him to bed. Then we would go to bed around 9:30, and I would set my alarm and wake up at 11 to do his dreamfeed. That was painful--waking up about an hour after I've gone to sleep. And it kind of defeats the point of a dreamfeed. Anyway, he was generally waking up hungry between 4:30 and 7am. If it was after 6, I would treat it as his first morning feed and let him be awake afterwards. But it was more often before 6, so I would feed from one side, then put him back down and hope he went back to sleep, then wake him by 7:30 for the first morning feed.

He seemed to be having trouble extending that night sleep much longer than 6 hours, even though I felt like he could go longer without eating. However, this past Tuesday was one of his wake-early-from-naps days. I decided to go with it and feed him when he woke up and see if it was a mini growth spurt. This meant that everything got moved up through the day, and his evening feeding took place at 6. We put him down for bed, and I was planning to let him sleep until 11. But he woke up around 9:30--very uncharacteristic of him. He had worked his right arm out of his swaddle (another recurring theme this week). I went ahead and fed him again and put him back down, and we went to bed. Next thing we know, it's 6am and he's just waking up! I had always heard that moving bedtime earlier can extend night sleep, but you never believe it will work for you. But I can go with that! So we've kept that schedule. He still wakes up before 6 sometimes, and I treat it as a night feed, then wake him back up shortly after 7 to eat again. I then bump his schedule up through the day so that his last feed is around 6pm and he's going to bed by 7, then I dreamfeed around 9:45, and we go to bed and hope for a good night!

Day Sleep
Naps have gotten better by the end of this week, but I've just accepted that they are rarely going to be perfect. Waking early happens at least once most days, and he still often needs to fuss a bit before falling asleep. No big deal.

One sleep issue we've started having this week is with the swaddle. If he wakes early from a nap or in the middle of the night, the most common culprit is a right arm that has worked itself free and then startled him (I'm guessing). I really don't think he's ready to drop the swaddle, though. He's definitely gaining more control over his arms and hands, but they're still jerky at times, and he still has the startle reflex. We use the Summer Infant SwaddleMes. We have aden + anais muslin blankets, but keeping him swaddled in those is hopeless. So, we've started putting him in one SwaddleMe and then wrapping the top part of a second one around his upper body. If we do this tightly enough, it seems to hold for now. The other issue is that he's getting close to being too long for our swaddles, and I'm not sure where I would go about getting bigger ones while here. I'm hoping we can make it with this size and not have to buy new ones before we can wean off the swaddle. (We do also have one Halo Sleepsack with the swaddle wrap, but he's even managed to work his arm through the arm hole and out of that one. It would probably work if I pinned the arm holes shut.)

Growth and Development
Braxon has discovered his voice this week and become quite the talker! It's really fun--we can carry on nice conversations with him :). It seems like he makes a new sound (and facial expression to go along with it) every day. He sometimes lays in his bed cooing for a while before falling asleep, which makes me think he's exploring his voice and enjoying it. Like I said earlier, his hand and arm control is coming along nicely. He absolutely loves his activity gym and could lay batting the toys--and now grabbing them and pulling them and talking to them--for a long time. I give him independent play time in the gym most days while I sit far enough away that he doesn't know I'm there. 

Nursing is still going great, not too many changes other than the schedule. I had a nice adventure trying to get a new breastpump. Like I mentioned last week, I had a major brain fart and plugged my Medela Pump-In-Style straight into the wall without a voltage converter. Stupid. It popped and is basically useless now. At least I didn't pay for it--someone gave me a hand-me-down. I managed to find a baby store here in BJ that had a nice website in English and sold Medela pumps. They were way more expensive than in the US, though. So I decided to go with the cheapest one--a manual pump--to tide me over until I make it back home. It was still $50, and the same one on Amazon was only $30. Ah well. I hated the caged feeling of not being able to pump at all. Like many stores here, they do free delivery. So I ordered my pump online and a delivery guy arrived the next day at my door! I can't complain about that part. I've actually been surprised with how well the manual has worked. I get about the same amount as I did with the electric--about 2 oz on a good day (since I pump between feeds, I don't get much more than that and don't want to compromise how much I have for Brax's next feed). And it doesn't take that much longer, since I usually had to sit there squeezing my boobs one at a time to get enough out with the electric anyway.

We did our first evening outing with Brax in a while last night. Another American professor and his wife had us over for an early dinner, and we brought Brax. He was really fun and interactive while we were there, which was fun for them. He was awake for almost 2 hours straight, though, with lots of stimulation. I could tell he was approaching the edge around 7. We started to leave around 7:15 and put him in the carrier. He fell asleep right away in that, but then we had to transfer him to his bed when we got home. He was not happy about being woken so soon and cried loudly for about 20 minutes. Pete finally went in and rocked him to sleep. Evening outings are hard.

I thought I'd put in a few words about myself. I have been super lucky with postpartum recovery. I did have tearing and lots of stitches (honestly, have you ever heard of anyone who didn't have any tearing? I think that's a false hope we cling to while pregnant. The OB who delivered me even remarked on how roomy and stretchy my vagina was, which I could attribute to the faithful perineal massages and kegels I did. And my baby had a nice small head. But I still couldn't avoid the tearing). That area was painful, uncomfortable, and bleeding on and off until about 7 weeks PP. But the rest of my body recovered fast. I fit in my pre-pregnancy jeans within the first week after delivery. My goal was to stay about 5 pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy for at least a few months, but I haven't been able to manage that here in China. It's hard to eat enough, I guess, and I do a lot more walking and bike riding on a very heavy bike. And I have been doing yoga and other aerobics to get my core strength back and ease the sore back. So I'm back to pre-preg weight, and I'm pretty sure my boobs are at least 5 pounds heavier. I'm hoping I can gain a little back when we get home. I really want to start cycling on my own after weaning, at least, and not return to the HA realm. But I feel great. My biggest complaint is the size F boobs, which mean I still can't fit into a lot of my shirts without looking like a porn star, especially here in China where women tend to be...much less well-endowed. Since I plan to keep breastfeeding until around a year or so, I guess I'm going to have to live with them for a while.

To what do I attribute the easy postpartum recovery--other than luck and breastfeeding, which burns an amazing amount of calories? I think the biggest factor was probably that I kept exercising throughout my pregnancy. And I didn't walk, which is supposedly one of the best prenatal exercises. I did dorky prenatal exercise videos and yoga at home. The advantage of these is that they work your whole body--especially core, back, legs, etc. I really think muscle strengthening exercises help a ton during pregnancy. I never had lower back pain and only had upper back pain at the very end, when everything hurt. And then my body was ready to bounce back quickly. Not that I felt like I was in good shape the first few times I exercised post-partum (I started light yoga about 10 days after delivery and tried jogging within 2 1/2 weeks. I don't recommend that to everyone--I may have been pushing it a bit). I worked up slowly. The sore back I had at the end of every day, after toting a growing baby around all day, was good motivation.

I also only gained 26 pounds through the pregnancy. I didn't feel like I had to eat much more than usual to gain the textbook pound a week after the first tri. And my biggest pregnancy irritation was constant gas pain, which definitely dampened my hunger. But the big take-away: if it's not too risky in your situation, exercise while you're pregnant, and focus on appropriate muscle toning more than cardio. By the end of your pregnancy, walking up a flight of steps will be plenty of cardio on its own! Other than that, I think a lot of how your body reacts to pregnancy is kind of random and not in your control. I expected things to be much harder than they were postpartum. But I had prayed a lot about it while pregnant, with the trip to China and everything, and God has been gracious.

I think that's long enough. We're going for a nice massage later this afternoon to celebrate Father's Day. 80 kuai--about $12--for an hour-long full-body massage! And that's at a more expensive and thus reputable establishment. I'm sure it could be cheaper if we didn't care whether or not the massage parlor would be willing service us--namely, Pete--in other ways.

Monday, June 13, 2011

9 Weeks

This is my summary of Brax's ninth week of life (from 8 to 9 weeks old), which technically ended on Saturday. Woops. I will warn you that it is long and potentially boring :). Braxon turned 2 months old on Thursday--I can hardly believe it, though in some ways it has been a long 2 months (in a good way). I guess he's two-thirds of the way through with being a newborn, if you count the first 3 months as the newborn period.

Babywise calls the first 8 weeks the "stabilization period," so we are theoretically stabilized. Do I feel stabilized? Not really. We have our textbook, perfect-nap, happy days, and we have our crazy, unpredictable days. And we almost always have at least one weird nap each day. But the textbook days are more numerous than the crazy ones. And he's still rarely fussy for no reason, and definitely more often happy than upset.

Nighttime Sleep
Many people do Babywise for the simple promise that Babywise babies sleep through the night early on. This is not why we're doing BW, but we are definitely looking forward to when it happens. And happy about where we are. For the past week or so Brax has consistently slept over 6 hours in one stretch at night, after his 11pm dreamfeed. He even made it over 7 hours a few nights. This means that he has technically eliminated the middle-of-the-night feed. This is wonderful and in some ways totally astounding. In other ways, it presents a challenge, because it means he wakes up in the morning only an hour or two before my desired morning wake time of 7-7:30. I've tried both treating his wake-up time as the first feed of the day and treating it as a night feed and putting him right back to bed afterwards and then waking him at 7:30 to eat again. I'm not sure which works better, as he often doesn't go back to sleep after the 6-ish feeding. Time will tell...and maybe he'll start stretching that night sleep longer anyway.

Daytime naps are definitely much less consistent than night sleep, which I guess is normal. I think we've gotten pretty good at reading Brax's sleepy cues (usually several yawns in close succession) and getting him down, and he's pretty good at falling asleep on his own. Actually, he's a champ at falling asleep on his own. He cries or makes noises sometimes for a little while, but he always goes to sleep. The inconsistency comes when he wakes up. Some days I have to wake him to feed him within 3.5 hours of the last feed. Other days, he wakes up crying after only 30 minutes to an hour. Those are my less favorite days. I'm then left to figure out if he's hungry or just got roused during a sleep transition, and if I should feed him now or put him off. If he does it consistently for several naps in a row, I usually just go with it and feed him so we don't get our feed/wake/sleep thing too off-kilter and in case he's going through a growth spurt. He seems to have mini growth spurts about once a week if that's the case. I just always hope they're on days when I don't have to go to language tutoring so that I can flex with his schedule and not have to leave Pete to give him a bottle--especially now that I blew up my Medela Pump-in-Style and will be making do with a cheapo manual pump until we get back to the US. (I fault the so-called mommy brain. Why else would I suddenly forget to plug the pump into the voltage converter first?)

Braxon is still a champion eater. His pattern is about 10-15 minutes per side these days (around every 3 hours, on average). He stays awake easily while eating now, except for sometimes at the 11pm feed. He's also becoming more efficient, taking fewer pauses while eating than before. I  love hearing that satisfying suck-suck-swallow! I still haven't had any major boob issues other than a couple of plugged ducts in the first weeks :). No thrush or mastitis, though, thank God. I find I really enjoy breastfeeding. And it gives me lots of time to either read or practice my Chinese (using the amazing Pleco app on my Ipod Touch).

Growth and Development
I'm amazed at how much Brax is learning and changing every day! He became much more interested in our faces this week. I think he could stare at us and make faces back all day, which is super fun. I always feel very special when he lights up so much upon finding my face! He also started looking at  me more often while nursing which is pretty cute. He even smiles at me while sucking away sometimes, which of course distracts him from the task at hand. Speaking of hands, he is figuring them out more, as well. He often finds them and sucks on them a bit. And he loves batting his toys in his activity gym and occasionally (accidentally) grabbing them He still loves "standing" and is getting better at holding himself steady. He likes tummy time for about 2 minutes and then starts getting frustrated with it, even though he can hold his head pretty high I often put him on my chest for tummy time, which he likes okay, but then he starts pushing himself forward with his feet and then rams his head into my chin. He continues to grow physically pretty quickly--up to somewhere between 12.5 and 12.8 pounds at the end of this week (our scale is not the most accurate). Judging on the way his clothes fit, most of that must be going into length and not width on him.

Health Concerns
Praise God, the only issue we've faced so far (besides the occasionally gassiness and lots of spit-up) is heat rash. I can deal with that. I've found that daily baths and wiping his skin with baking soda (dissolved in water) clears it  up. He does still definitely favor turning his head to his right side and consequently has a flat spot on the back of his head since we can't get him to sleep with his head to the left. I emailed our pediatrician in CA and she said not to worry about it for now, and she'll check on it when we get back (when he'll be 3 months). Other than that, he has been amazingly healthy considering how dirty his environment is and how bad the air is here! And how his parents are not the most fastidious when it comes to germs (it's just too hard here).

We ventured out with Brax three times this week. I know that doesn't seem like much, but it's just much harder and more complicated to pull off here, and the air's so bad, that we usually go out one at a time. We've learned that the stroller is no good if we won't be moving the whole time and we want him to sleep, so he comes with us strapped to his dad's front in our baby carrier (we have the little-heard-of Maximom, which has a terrible name but is totally awesome and highly recommended if you are in the market for a carrier!). Pete just can't be still for too long. We've even taken him like that on a bike sometimes--so illegal in the US! He came to church with us on Sunday and slept great until I woke him to nurse near the end of the service (in a corner in the overflow room, not in the main auditorium). We went out to lunch with a couple of professors on Thursday, and he came a slept through the whole thing. Then we went to a clothing market on Saturday and brought him. He was a little fussier this time. We're not sure if he was hot or just tired of staring at Dad's chest We do flip him around sometimes to face out, though his neck muscles are only barely strong enough.  Wherever we go, we get tons of attention from the Chinese. They are not used to seeing white babies, let alone such young ones and being carried in a carrier. The women usually tell us what we're doing wrong (he should have shoes on, he shouldn't be out, he's cold, he should be horizontal, etc.) which Pete understands for the most part. We've learned that giving advice is a way of showing kindness in China, so we take the criticism in that spirit.

I think that's about it for this week. Stay tuned for the thrilling 10-week report in a few days! It's really amazing how important the minutiae of a baby's life becomes to a mom....

A Bloggy Change

I've been thinking a lot about this blog and its future, though it may seem like blogging is the furthest thing on my mind.* I want to keep blogging but find it hard to motivate myself or figure out what to write about without boring you all with gushing about my baby. At the same time, I've been trying to keep regular notes on what's going on with Brax each week, both so I can look back when going through this with my next child and for posterity's sake.

It dawned on me that perhaps I should try combining the two. Yes, this will mean that I will write about things that probably don't interest anyone who doesn't have a baby and may make those of you who want a baby sad or annoyed with how wrapped up in my son I may come across as being (whew, that was a poorly constructed sentence if I ever saw one!). But at least I'll be writing something. And since I'm implementing Babywise with my child and tend to do tons of reading and research in general on what's going on, maybe it will be informative for some. And perhaps those with experience may be able to occasionally shed some light on what's going on--or at least offer some perspective when I get particularly frustrated (like today, when he has refused to nap for longer than 45 minutes).

With all that said, I think this is going to require a blog name change, but I'm fresh out of ideas. Maybe I should name it something in Chinese. But all ideas from the peanut gallery are welcomed.

And I will reserve the right to include updates of the non-baby-obsessed variety. When the mood strikes and the internet isn't being too annoying.

So stay tuned for the upcoming belated 9-Week/2-Month update. You're on the edge of your seat, I can tell.

*Though I may not be blogging much and my commenting on your blogs has decreased, please know that I am still regularly reading. Google Reader is accessible here, but not Blogger. So I can read your blogs easily, but if you use Blogger, which most of you do, I have to go through a whole long rigamarole to get around the Great Firewall and comment on your blog. Something I often don't have the time or patience for.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pinching Myself

I keep having moments during which I suddenly look around and can't believe where I am. I can't believe that little ole' me actually managed to conceive, survive a pregnancy for 9 months, deliver, and now nurture a beautiful child who's actually growing and developing the way he should. Those are all things that have seemed so far away, grown up, and, well, inconceivable my whole life. Heck, sometimes I still can't believe I managed to snag a great guy, get married, and that we've survived on our own without adults for almost 5 years. How did this happen?

And then, how did we manage to travel across the world and set up a new little life, albeit a temporary one, in Beijing? Am I really smart enough for all this?


In other news, I'm a bit apprehensive that my little one may be a super early roller and walker. He's already managed to push up hard enough with his feet to fall from being on his tummy, where I had put him for tummy time, to almost on his back. And that was at 6 weeks. I'm not ready for him to start rolling for real! And, even more scary: he can pretty much support his entire weight standing on his legs at this point--with one of us holding his upper body steady, of course. He absolutely loves pushing off with his feet and bouncing--he gets so proud of himself. I'm awfully proud of him, too, but I'm definitely not going to be ready for it when he does start walking. I think he's going to be a super active little toddler. Probably just like his dad--super active and athletic. I guess maybe that will compensate a bit for the fact that he looks just like me.

The rest of the fam is off hiking the Great Wall today. I'm home with the little bean. I've been there before, so I don't feel too down in the dumps being left out this time. The in-laws leave in approximately 70 hours. Not that anyone's excited about being able to finally really settle into this apartment or anything.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Week in Beijing: Bite-Sized Version

The past week has been a long one, as first weeks in a new place usually are. But at the same time, I feel thrilled that we've made it through and can't believe we only have 9 more to go. I've been dreading this first week here for so long that I feel like it's been a major accomplishment to survive as we have.

A few observations and tidbits about life in Beijing so far:
  • They really do have nice weather here. I never believed it because I've only ever been to China in July, which is swelteringly miserable, at least in the east. But it's been in the 70s and 80s and low humidity almost every day--just like California at this time of year (with a little extra dust and pollution thrown in).
  • Biking is much faster than walking. Getting more than a backpack's worth of stuff home from the grocery store is still a more daunting task than I'm willing to attempt by myself yet--but at least the trip goes by more quickly on a bike.
  • Biking is much scarier than walking. I really need to get better at pedaling and balancing while going really, really slowly when I can't get around the pedestrians I'm stuck behind on a sidewalk.
  • Chinese people are much friendlier when we have a baby with us. But they also think we are insane to be out and about with a six-week-old. I want to tell them that yes, we are absolutely insane, and not a good representations of Americans as a whole. And don't worry, we really aren't taking Brax out too much. It's just nice to be able to go out all together sometimes.
  • Chinese mattresses are extremely firm. To the point that I have bruises on both of my hips from sleeping on my sides. I say this after all my collective experience of 7 weeks of my life spent in China. Maybe some Chinese mattresses are softer.
  • Having a washing machine in your apartment is awesome! Even when you have to hang all your clothes to dry for lack of a dryer.
  • I should never, ever go for a jog in a new place without a cell phone. I have a terrible sense of direction and am bound to get lost. Which is manageable in the US, but very different when I can't speak the language and don't even know the name of the building I'm living in, which is one of about 50 buildings that all look the same on Tsinghua's campus.
  • I miss cooking. But currently, we only own one pot. We will eventually buy more, but perhaps a few at a time so we can carry them back. And, of course, shopping itself is still a bit intimidating for me.
  • Everything would be easier if I could speak a little Mandarin. I will be getting one-on-one tutoring starting tomorrow for 3 hours a week. Maybe I'll be slightly functional by the end of July...we'll see.
  • Remote controlled air conditioners are a terrible idea. When the remote stops functioning for an unknown reason, you better hope you left the ac on a decent setting!
That's all for now. I still can't post any pictures, even though I have an adorable video of Braxon smiling. Probably just as well--I know you're all inundated by pictures and videos of adorable babies. But everything takes longer to figure out when you're a foreigner.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Writing from Blocked Blogger

No, Blogger is not accessible from China. Neither is Facebook, or, randomly, Google Docs (even though most other Google applications are available). So I'm writing through...a secret location :). And glad I've kept my name off this blog so I don't mind telling you all.

We arrived here last Sunday night after a long but fairly smooth flight. Braxon slept for about 70% of the trip. Those little airplane bassinets are fantastic, as is the white noise provided by the airplane engine. Our only mishap was when we were changing his diaper the first time in the bassinet and he decided to pee (a common occurrence when changing little boys' diapers, and one for which I am usually more prepared). Then I had to change his whole outfit, and they had just served the plane meals, so my husband was trapped in his seat by the meal tray, and I had to pull the heavy roller bag out of the overhead compartment to find a new outfit. I will also say that I've never wished more that we were using formula. Sure, breastfeeding takes up less space, but finding the time and places to breastfeed in airports and in between flights and airplane meals is a royal pain. And I hate having to wear a sheet over myself. I can't see what's going on down there, and it's HOT.

We are settling in pretty well here. Our apartment is a little more spacious than expected. Braxon finally gave us our first night last night of only one middle-of-the-night waking. I think he was on jet lag the first few days and waking at least twice a night and fussing at different times. Then, two nights ago, he was up almost every hour and hungry. Not helping his parents adjust to a new time zone. So I added another feed to his day yesterday, and he made it for two good 4-hour stretches. Ah, sleep!

I'm afraid my picture-posting days may be on hold for a while. We haven't figured out a way to get the pictures from our computer to this...ahem...secret online portal yet. But Brax is officially six weeks old tomorrow and getting soooo big! He's such a happy baby and gives us beautiful big smiles and coos. Other than when he wakes up hungry or has gas, which is infrequent, the only time he cries is occasionally when we put him down for naps. I think he just misses the company. But even that has been decreasing as I've let him cry it out more consistently the past few days (I didn't want to do it too much before we made it through this big transition, and before he was closer to six weeks old and I was more confident that letting him cry is okay.

Six weeks also means that I'm probably allowed to attempt sex, or so my husband is reminding me. But I'm pretty nervous about that prospect. I had to have my "six-week" postpartum appointment a bit early at four weeks postpartum, and at that point, most of my stitches were apparently still intact. So how am I supposed to know if they're gone by now without checking? And while I stuck my fingers up there with abandon to check cervical mucus and position while TTC, I'm a little more squeamish about "up there" after all the trauma it went through. My doctor still gave me the clear to try sex after six weeks, but I'm thinking eight weeks sounds better. And the in-laws will be gone by then...

Speaking of whom, we just realized that they're staying a week longer than we expected. My husband is not very detail-oriented when it comes to dates. It's going okay with them, and I haven't offended anyone yet (that I know of), but two and a half weeks is a loooong time to have anyone stay with you, even if it's your best friend and you have a huge house. They have been a huge help, though. I really don't know if we could have made it through the past week without them to carry suitcases, watch the baby when we both needed to be out (like to sign up for language tutoring), go shopping for us, clean the apartment, etc. But I will be ready to see them off on May 31 (I know the date now).

Time to sign off. Another fun aspect of our internet is that only one computer can be logged on at a time, and we currently have four people who like the internet around here. So must share.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Day More...

One day until go time! It was two days when I first wrote this post, but stinkin’ Blogger has delayed things (and prevented me from commenting on many of your posts...sorry). I’m feeling pretty on top of the packing. Pete has come through on his promise to do as much of it as he could. We currently have four suitcases packed and a couple more in process. We’ll get 6 on the way over, since the in-laws are coming. We plan to fill any extra space with diapers and then leave at least one suitcase there when we come back. A couple of them are on their last leg, so no big loss there.

I’ve come to a realization about myself in terms of my emotions and stress levels with a newborn. I--and others around me--have been surprised at the seeming stability of my emotions. I don’t think I’ve cried once since giving birth, except for a few tears of joy shed when my son was first placed on my belly. Most moms I’ve talked to remember the crazy emotions in the first weeks and the random tears, signifying nothing except hormonal shifts. But I’ve never been one to experience too many emotional ups and downs that I can attribute purely to hormones, so that’s not too surprising too me.

What has been more surprising is that I don’t feel too overwhelmed by the task of caring for a baby. I love almost every minute, though it’s certainly not without its frustrations (as in,  why is he screaming his little head off when he’s clearly exhausted and should be sleeping...). But I feel like I can handle taking care of him day in and day out.

What I’m having trouble handling is pretty much anything else beyond taking care of my little bean. All the visitors who come by to bring a meal and end up staying to chat and leaving me no time to eat the meal before I need to breastfeed the little fella and then would love to head to bed myself. The daunting prospect of packing (though that’s largely behind us now). The anticipation of a long plane ride during which my baby may or may not fuss and make everyone around us hate me for bringing him--or worse, hate him. The family members who want to skype and see the baby.

And, most of all, the in-laws, and the fact that we will be cooped up in a very tiny apartment with them for a week and a half while all dealing with jet lag and adjusting to a new place. This last one has very little to do with who my in-laws are. I do admit that my father-in-law is one of those people who just rubs me wrong in so many ways. But really, both of them are lovely people, and it is fun to see how much they love my baby. And my mother-in-law is pretty sensitive to trying to give me space. I think they would normally offer to stay in a hotel nearby, but, since neither of them has traveled much overseas, I think they are a little scared of staying somewhere without us in Beijing (as if Pete’s one year of Mandarin is going to get us very far). And we have said from the beginning that they could stay with us, and they even helped to pay some of the extra cost of getting a two-bedroom rather than a one-bedroom apartment (why, oh why, did I not anticipate six months ago how overwhelming that would be?).

Now, after all that whining, I just need to add something. I firmly believe that God has brought this situation along, and that he desires for me to truly love the people around me. And I also believe that he will never give me more than I can handle by still honoring him--that he is willing to give me the patience and grace I need to make it through a stressful situation with a peaceful and loving attitude. Right now, that seems somewhat impossible, but I guess that’s why I need God. The question is whether I will be faithful to focus on him and his love and patience with me rather than on myself and how irritated or stressed I feel at any given moment.

So that’s where I am. I know that I will survive the next few weeks, and that it will all probably be much easier than I expect. And I can’t wait until Brax’s six-week mark, when we will have been there for a week, the in-laws will be leaving soon, and supposedly, he will have reached his peak fussiness and be settling more easily into a rhythm. And smiling socially!

Not that I can complain too much about his current rhythm. He does, after all, usually give us 3.5-5-hour stretches of solid sleep at night (last night I actually woke him at 4:30 to feed him because my boobs were sore and it had been 5.5 hours since his last feed!). I’m a mother of an almost-5-week-old who actually feels somewhat rested. But daytime has been very unpredictable, and I’m constantly confused about when to put him down for naps, whether I should let him cry it out or do whatever I can to soothe him to sleep at this point, and what I did wrong when he doesn’t nap. I know, I know, I have it really good, and I’m so, so thankful.

But the six-week mark is only 9 days away...

Here’s a picture from his one-month “birthday” last weekend, which coincided nicely with Mother’s Day:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to Everyone Reading

It's amazing when I think back to where I was on Mother's Day last year. I don't know if I'll ever be able to think of Mother's Day in the same way as before infertility, though I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm entirely against the holiday. It's just such an insider vs. outsider day, though, which really is a shame. There should be a way of honoring our dear mothers without making everyone who wishes to be a mother feel badly.

Brax gave me the lovely gift of his best night's sleep ever last night. Very thoughtful of him! He basically slept from 7pm to 7:30am, with feedings at 8:15pm, 11pm, and 4:20am. And the only one of those he woke for ahead of time was the 4:20. I actually went in at 4am to check and make sure he was still breathing, since I couldn't believe he was still so soundly asleep. The good night was especially appreciated, as he was a bit off for most of last week. I suspect he went through his 3-week growth spurt for real, but it's hard to say for sure. He also gave me a lovely card with a poem he wrote this morning, and he's taking me out for dessert later. Such a good boy already :).

I had a brief conversation at church this morning with a friend who has been trying to get pregnant for 2 1/2 years. She and her husband are in our community group, and 4 out of 6 of the couples in our group are having babies in 2011 (including ourselves). It's so hard for her, but she's also in a really good place spiritually. So I truly feel like she and her husband rejoice with all of us. She even gave me some adorable little baby shoes this morning that she picked up at the store just because she saw them and thought they were too cute to resist! That definitely says something--I don't think I probably would have done that for my friends with babies while I was struggling with infertility. But that doesn't take away the pain of what she and her husband, who is actually probably more of an emotional person than she is, are dealing with, and the pain of today.

Those of you who are mothers or mothers-to-be today, please enjoy the day without guilt, and feel appreciated. We really do make a lot of sacrifices for these offspring of ours. For those of you longing to be mothers, know that you are also mothers-to-be, though the timing of when you will meet your children is yet undetermined. I've known a few women in my life who were never able to have biological children--either because they never married or because they dealt with infertility--but who were definitely skilled at mothering. And their lives are beautiful despite and because of the pain they have gone through. I know that's little comfort to anyone in the throes of the infertility struggle right now. So perhaps I should simply say to you, "Happy Day!" and leave it at that, hoping that you do, in fact, find a piece of happiness today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Long Overdue Update

I thought I would be more motivated to blog once I had a kid to blog about, but apparently I was mistaken. I guess my discomfort with talking about my little world remains. Nonetheless, I will try to keep it up, if sporadically.

Life with a newborn is going well. I generally feel more rested than I think I should, but I have been averaging 6-7 hours of sleep between 9pm and 8am. And two of those chunks are usually 2-3 hours at a time. Not bad for the breastfeeding mother of a 3-week-old. I've also come to accept that my son simply doesn't need the recommended 16-20 hours of sleep per day (for newborns). He gets about 14 hours on his best days and has probably averaged around 12. But since we've been able to convince him that the majority of those should take place between 6:30pm and 6am, I'm told I can't complain about the shorter daytime naps.

All in all, we're told by many other parents that we have a relatively easy child. I can't help but attribute a large part of that to Babywise and the Baby Whisperer. Braxon has taken really well to the 2 1/2-3 hour feed/wake/sleep routine. He's also been pretty good at putting himself to sleep in his crib, though he does often lay there fidgeting (and, rarely, fussing) for 20-30 minutes before really being asleep. And occasionally won't go to sleep at all, just to keep us on our toes.

Just to disprove the naysayers (who claim that feeding on any kind of routine, even if it's very flexible, leads to slower growth rates), he gained a little over a pound in one week last week! I suspect he had his 3-week growth spurt at the end of last week, because he suddenly started waking up hungry from naps and eating every 2 1/2 hours after being happy with 3 hours all week and needing to be woken to eat from many naps. Either that, or we're going to have one huge baby on our hands in a few months.

The icky umbilical stump finally fell off last week, so we were able to give him his first bath. I think he liked it, though it's very hard to tell at this age. We have a really cool bath tub that fits into our bathroom sink--the Puj Tub. I recommend it highly to anyone else living in tight quarters with a baby. We plan to take it with us to China, since it's so light and can fold or roll up, so I'm hoping he can fit in it at least until we get back at the end of July.

Speaking of China, our departure date is looming very close--and scary--on May 14! I'm ready to get all the transition over with and be there and settled in, but I'm nervous about that transition. For one thing, I detest packing because of all the decisions that have to be made about what to bring, and my fear that I'll forget something important. For another, I'm not really looking forward to sharing a two-bedroom apartment with the in-laws for a week and a half after we get there. They are traveling with us and will be a huge help, but also a huge source of stress for me. And the whole flying for 14 hours with a baby doesn't sound very fun, even though we were able to reserve a seat with a bassinet. Then there's the jet lag, which is bad enough to deal with yourself, but will likely be even worse for Braxon, who's done so well at sorting out his days and nights. If anyone out there has any tips for baby jet lag, I'm all ears!

On a lighter note, of course I'll include a few pictures!

Contemplating the bath

Trying out the Moby wrap--I think he likes it, but I'm not a huge fan when it's warm out!