Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Five months old

Dear Annika,

Today you are five months old. This is a prime chunky baby age, and it is delightful.

You have become an extremely vocal baby this month. You are figuring out your vocal cords in earnest, and the results have been... squawky. You light up and let out a string of delighted babbling when you catch sight of us. You "talk" back to us when we talk to you. When you hear voices or noises around you, you crane your neck to see what's going on. You shriek when you're displeased or when you're playing with toys, and you have become quite ear-piercing. You're also babbling and talking generally more, and the beginnings of a few consonant sounds, particularly "ma," have started to make occasional appearances in your repertoire.

Like your brother before you, you've taken a bit of a break from rolling over after doing it regularly for a couple months. Unlike your brother, however, you are very focused at this point on learning how to sit and on bearing weight on your legs as much as possible. You adore your jumperoo, and if we put you in a standing position holding on to a piece of furniture, you can support yourself without anyone's help for an impressively long time. You desperately want to sit up, but you haven't figured out the tripod sit yet and just lean further and further forward until you're basically folded in half when we try. By now your core is strong enough that you can be carried on our hips, and I love walking around with you like that, as you look all around while clinging to my arm with one pudgy hand.

You continue to sleep great at night, usually around 11 hours straight, but you've been futzing with your nap schedule this month. It seems that, again like your brother before you, you are trying to drop your second nap very early. This would be fine except that you don't always sleep as long as you need to during your first nap, and are then an exhausted wreck by the evening. You've been giving us very clear signals that you'd like to go to bed earlier, and we've been resisting because we're afraid of you waking up too early, but last night we gave in and put you to bed before 8 because you were so clearly exhausted and cranky, and--you slept 12.5 hours straight. Fine, then. We'll keep following your cues if that's going to be the result. And if you keep doing that, then maybe this one-nap thing will actually work out. You are still sleeping swaddled, and I'm starting to get the impression that you don't need to be anymore, but we're also transitioning you from napping in the swing to napping in the crib, and between that and your shift in nap schedules, I want to hold off on weaning you from the swaddle until the other sleep stuff has settled down.

You continue to grow right along your same curves. My at-home measurements from this morning put you at 17 pounds, 7 ounces (87th percentile) and 27 inches (98th percentile). You wear mostly size 6-12 month clothing, though I still occasionally stuff you in some of my favorites from your 3-6 month wardrobe. You are still eating about 30 ounces of formula daily, give or take a few ounces. We haven't started you on solid food yet, and I think we'll hold off another month. You aren't displaying a specific interest--you do watch while we eat, but you watch everything we do, so I don't think that's specific to a solid food interest so much as a general curiosity about what is going on around you.

You continue to adore your brother. You smile and laugh whenever you catch sight of him, and if he's near you, you refuse to take your eyes off him. You chortle gleefully whenever he comes close. It's amazing to me how quickly you seem to have figured out that he's your guy, your special person, the one who will share your childhood like nobody else.

You really like toys by now, and have gotten quite good at reaching out and picking things up, passing them back and forth between your hands, and stuffing them in your mouth. You are very drooly and you suck your thumb sometimes, but not regularly. Your brother got his first tooth shortly before six months old, so I'm wondering if you'll follow in his footsteps in the next month or so, but so far your gums are smooth and we've seen no signs of teething.

By now it feels like we're all in a great rhythm. Things are humming along, we are all feeling content, and as the weather gets warmer we're starting to enjoy lots more family walks and outings, which is lovely for everyone. It's amazing how seamlessly you fit into our lives. I already can't imagine life without you. And that's exactly the way I always hoped it would be.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Four months old

Dear Annika,

Today you are four months old. Four!

You are the most delightful little baby. You smile and laugh all the time, and squeal and shriek with delight when you see us. We introduced you to your jumperoo this month, and you will happily spend ages in there, bouncing and chatting. You remain mostly calm and mellow, and you love to be around people, though you definitely need your space to recharge.

Your fine motor skills have really developed this month. You're able to manipulate toys surprisingly well for your age--you can grasp toys, pass them from one hand to the other, reliably get them into your mouth, and now we've also discovered that if we set a toy on a surface in front of you, you can reach out and pick it up. You also seem very tactile, and like to scratch your fingers on your clothes and other surfaces. During tummy time, if you don't roll over (which you still do, but not every time) you will often reach out and rub your fingers against the fabric of your activity mat. You're also really into waving your arms and especially kicking, and you like to lift your legs in the air so you can stare at your feet, though I haven't yet seen you actually grab them. You love to use your leg muscles in general, and are delighted when we hold you in a standing position on our laps so you can bear your weight on your legs.

You are extremely interested in the world around you. Feeding you gets more challenging every day, as you are increasingly distracted and interested in looking all around. You also like to grab your bottle and try to hold it, often accidentally pushing it out of your mouth in the process, so the combination means that it can be very tough to keep the bottle in your mouth long enough for you to eat a full meal. You especially adore your brother, and stare at him intently whenever he's nearby.

You went on your first plane trip this month, and while you were great during the weekend away, the plane rides themselves didn't go so smoothly. You did well for about 1.5 hours each time, and then you were done, but the flight wasn't. This was where I learned that you really need to be left alone to sleep. The second flight especially was rather amazing--you wanted to sleep but couldn't do it in my arms and so you screamed for about 20 minutes straight, until we landed. When our seatmates exited the row, I set you down on the empty seats to collect our stuff, and the second I put you down you calmed down completely. As soon as I picked you up again the screaming began anew, and continued all the way through the terminal and baggage claim and parking garage until I got to the car and set you in your car seat, at which point you were instantly fine again. Lesson learned: sometimes, especially if you're overtired, you just do not want to be held.

Thankfully most of the time you are happy to snuggle and interact on our laps, and once recently I even got you to sleep on me for about an hour (the trick to this is to pick you up after you've already fallen asleep), and it was so delightful to cuddle you peacefully for so long. It's amazing to think that you're already growing away from that stage. But you are very surely four months old, complete with opinions, noise, interaction, and drool.

You're still sleeping great, about 11 hours in a row most nights and one long nap during the day, usually supplemented by another nap of varying length for a total of about 14-15 hours per day. You're also still growing along the same high curve--my home measurements have you at 16 pounds 6 ounces (88th percentile) and 26 inches (97th percentile). This month you fully weaned yourself from breastfeeding, and you eat about 28-30 ounces of formula most days. You're still in 3-6 month clothing, but I suspect you'll be moving into 6-12 in the near future.

I went back to work this month, and while it helps that I work from home and can pop in to see you a couple times during the day, it's definitely been an adjustment. I've had a few irrational pangs of worrying that you'll forget who your mother is after spending so much time with someone else, but when I finish work in the evenings and pick you up and you respond with a giant smile and delighted cooing and arm-waving, I know that you are my baby and I'm your mother and we're going to be just fine.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three months old

Dear Annika,

Today you are three months old. A quarter of a year!

This month you've become a really happy, interactive baby. You smile a ton--huge, wide, heart-melting grins--and now you've also started to laugh sometimes, an adorable little chuckle that we are usually able to prompt by kissing you or making funny noises. You watch us all the time, and get super excited, kicking and waving your arms, when we come into view. You also love your brother, and watch him and smile when he's near you. He's very interested in you too, and will also tell us proudly, "She's smiling at me!" whenever you give him a grin.

You've also become much chattier this month, and are making all kinds of noises--coos, squeals, grunts, shrieks, gurgles, you name it. You chat at us constantly, with your big wide eyes fixed on us, and it really seems like you're trying to tell us things when you do it. You're at the point now where if we are wearing you and you are awake, you want to be facing out so you can see everything that's going on around you--facing in will no longer cut it, and you will scream loudly to express your disapproval if we try.

This month you learned how to roll over, and have reproduced it many times since, though sometimes you can't quite manage it and then you get angry and fuss loudly. You are very strong by now, and have excellent head control--I think you'll be ready for the jumperoo in the next couple weeks.

Your other big leap this month has been in noticing your hands and starting to learn how to use them. You put them in your mouth and also hold them together over your belly, playing with your fingers. You've learned to grasp toys and are starting to be able to put them in your mouth. You've also started putting both hands on your bottle when you're eating, and in fact you've gotten so enthusiastic with your hands that sometimes you accidentally push the bottle out of your mouth and then get angry that your food has been cut off.

You're still growing closely along your curves. An estimated weight at home brings you in at about 14 and a half pounds (84th percentile) and 25.5 inches (99th percentile). You are fully into your size 3-6 month clothing, where I think you'll stay for at least the next month.

This month you've scaled back considerably on the nursing, though you still do it a few times most days. I suspect that weaning is probably in our near future, which isn't entirely unexpected as you're old enough to notice that you get a lot more milk a lot faster with the bottle. I'm pleased that we made it three months, though. As the nursing has tapered off we've seen your formula consumption go up--you've hit 30 ounces a couple times on days when you refused to nurse, but most days you eat about 26-27 ounces.


You continue to be a great sleeper. As long as you're swaddled, you sleep anywhere from 8-10 hours almost every night, and usually take two naps of 2-3 hours each during the day. Luckily you remain flexible about exactly when and where you sleep, so if we have things to get done you are happy to crash in your car seat while we drag you around.

I will be returning to work tomorrow, which has raised all the usual mixed feelings for me. Thankfully, I work from home and will be able to check in on you throughout the day. I know you will be in good hands (we have a German au pair), but of course having someone else take care of you while I'm away will be tough at first. But baby girl, I have so loved having these first three months together, no work, no real distractions, just us. My going back to work marks a major shift for both of us, but I know it will be great in the long run. It's the right choice for me, for you, for our family--and I know the four of us will figure out the transition together, as we've figured out everything else so far. Every month I know more and more that our little family of four is exactly right. You make us right. We are so glad you're here.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Two months old

Dear Annika,

Today you are two months old. I am pretty sure this is the start of my favorite age.

Just in the last week or so, it feels like you've turned from a birdlike, blobby newborn into a chunky, adorable BABY. You've started looking less alien-like and you've become much more aware and interactive. I remember with your brother looking back at photos of him and thinking I didn't really recognize him until he was about two months old--and now I see why. Apparently this is the age where something clicks and you turn into the first version of your future self, if that makes sense.


In the last couple weeks you have become significantly more smiley and more vocal. You like to coo softly, especially when we talk to you--you fix your eyes on our faces and make all sorts of vowel-y noises back to us. You have given big grins to me, your dad, and your brother--and recently you also smiled at a stranger for the first time because she smiled at you first. You watch us when we walk around, and smile when we come in the room and you first catch sight of us. I've noticed that you are especially smiley for me compared to other people, and I have to say I love that. It's a refreshing change to be your favorite after your brother was obsessed with your dad from the start.

Of course it's too early to really know what your personality is going to be like, but so far you seem mellow and also kind of... reserved? Or somehow even-keeled, for a baby. You don't give up your smiles easily, and while you certainly express displeasure if something is wrong, it seems to take a lot to make you upset. I am very curious to see if this is a personality trait that will bear out over time or if you're just focused on learning about your world for now.

You remain a calm, easy to please baby. By now you really enjoy your activity mat, and will lie there waving your arm and legs, batting and cooing at your toys, for quite some time. You don't love tummy time, but your little neck and core are quite strong by now, and you can hold your head and shoulders up indefinitely during it. Recently we've noticed some grunty thrashing that seems like it may be the precursor to attempts to roll over, but I think actual rolling is still a ways away. You're also content to sit in your bouncy seat or your swing, or just hang out on our laps, looking around.

It seems like you're starting to notice your brother a little bit, too. You watch him intently when he comes in the room, and sometimes you smile at him even when he hasn't smiled at you first. He's very interested in you too, and likes to hold your hand and stroke your head and give you kisses. Seeing the two of you together just kills me with sweetness.

You're still sleeping great. Your nighttime stretches are getting longer--we can almost always count on your first stretch of the night lasting six or seven hours, and twice now you've done a full 10-11 hour stretch overnight, which has been amazing. Swaddling you really matters, and once I figured out that I should swaddle you for naps and not just at night, you started taking one or two really long (3-4 hour) naps each day.

You're still growing like crazy. You're fully in 0-3 month clothing at this point, and while your two-month well-visit isn't until next week so I don't have official measurements, my amateur home attempts put you at 13 pounds (86th percentile according to my Baby Connect app) and 23.5 inches (90th percentile). You still nurse before every bottle, and are eating close to 25 ounces of formula per day. I get the feeling that 3-6 month clothing is in our not-too-distant future.

I have to say, I worried a bit about the transition from one kid to two--I'd heard that it was one of the hardest, because it limits your lifestyle more than just one kid. But so far we haven't experienced that at all. You fit so beautifully and easily into our lives. It feels like you should have always been here, because you fit so perfectly, and we didn't even know it--but we needed you so much.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It was a very good year

(Previous years: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007)  

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Had a baby girl. Got a master's degree. Went to Mexico. Gave birth with zero interventions. Organized a girls' weekend. Hosted a baby shower. Attended a concert at Red Rocks. Sent my kid to school.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make any. I don't think I will this year, either. I am in the middle of purging and organizing our house, though (I'm in serious postpartum nesting mode) and I really hope to maintain the organizational levels once they're achieved.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Me! Also Katie, Liz, and Susie, and my French host sister.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

England and Mexico.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
A nephew!

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
November 2, the day Annika was born.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think I managed to be a pretty decent parent to Callum despite the mental and physical exhaustion of work, school, and pregnancy. And I think I'm doing pretty well at parenting two kids, so far.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I was going to say all the times I was too exhausted to really engage with Callum the way he deserves, but you know what? I was pregnant, working full time, and in school. And I have a really fantastic co-parent who picked up the slack for me. So I think my parenting this year falls into the achievement category, where I put it, and I think the failure category has to do with beating myself up too much for normal human behavior. I blamed myself for being lazy and useless when I was really just responding normally to some tough (but worthwhile!) conditions.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
An awful bronchitis-like disease complete with fever, and a nasty stomach bug, but nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our new TV. Nice bedding. A raclette.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Torsten's, like every year. In what seems to becoming a theme of this post, I was emotionally wrung out for much of the year, and on top of his own demanding job and everything he was already doing at home, he did so much parenting stuff while I lay on the couch, including the tedious grunt-work, and never complained, and also rubbed my back every day.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Nobody in my personal circle, thankfully.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Same answer for the third straight year: our mortgage and childcare.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Oh, you know, having a baby. Also seeing Callum as a big brother.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

All That She Wants by Ace of Base.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?
a) Happier
b) Fatter (the baby was worth it, but ugh)
c) Richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Meal planning.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Feeling exhausted and nauseated.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At home with just the four of us. It was the first year that Callum really got the whole Christmas and Santa concept, and it was really fun planning for him, and so lovely to see his reaction, and also peaceful and low-key not to have anywhere to go.

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

Yes, with my amazing baby girl.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Downton Abbey.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?

Eleanor & Park.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I'm not sure I made any.

26. What did you want and get?
A second baby. A master's degree. A promotion. Purple Uggs (thanks, family!).

27. What did you want and not get?

A bike. Endless energy.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

We hardly watched any movies this year, but I liked Lincoln a lot.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I truly cannot remember. OK, I just discovered a blog post where I mentioned it. There was a blizzard, so on my actual birthday we stayed home, and then we went out for a nice dinner the following weekend. I turned 29.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Truly, nothing. I'm ending the year with a happy marriage, two healthy kids, and a job that I like. Possibly the best year ever, you know?

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Round and empire-waisted.

32. What kept you sane?
My little family.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Hm. Uh. Lindy West?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Pretty much all of them, so I'll go with last year's answer of marriage equality and access to health care.

35. Who did you miss?
Same answer as the last four years: Most of my friends and family, since pretty much all of them live far away now.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Annika, of course, but in the standard sense of "met," Susie. I can't actually believe we hadn't met in person before this year.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
Your best is usually good enough.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I don't think there is one. Oh well.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Big brother

Callum as a big brother is... well, it's really special. It is something. Mostly it is really amazing. My sweet big boy has become such a sweet big brother.


When we left for the hospital when I was in labor, it was the middle of the night so we didn't say goodbye to Callum, which was probably for the best as I think I would have melted down on the spot. She was born quickly, and Callum came to the hospital to meet her less than 12 hours after we had originally left the house. We had gotten a gift "from her" for him, a stuffed monkey that he has been very attached to ever since, and we had had him pick out a gift to give to her when she was born, a Skwish. So my in-laws brought him to the hospital to meet her and it went well. He was interested, we gave him lots of hugs and kisses, they exchanged gifts (so to speak), he asked questions about her, he touched her and tried to help her and seemed to like her. He was sad when it was time for him to leave with my in-laws again, but he got over it quickly and left happily enough.


We brought her home from the hospital the next day, and oh, that day was hard. Poor Callum. You could see that he was interested and eager and nervous, and that he was trying so hard, and that he was scared and confused and just... fragile. He cried easily. At one point that first day when she was lying in the swing, he came to me and said "baby sister has a pillow" and just burst into tears. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry over just pure emotion rather than anything concrete. I cried too, when it happened. And there were a few more incidents like that over those first days. He cried easily. He was concerned and scared. But he was also very interested. He wanted to hold her and help to feed her. He sat in front of the swing just watching her sleep. In fact, he kind of set up camp in front of the swing, bringing his toys and playing with them, but making sure he was right there next to her the whole time while she slept.


Things have gotten easier since then. Those first few weeks, there were grandparents staying with us, first Torsten's parents and then mine. That helped a lot. They played with him, focused on him, entertained him. There was always someone there to be just his. After the last visitors left at the end of November, he had to go through another adjustment period, where it was just Torsten and me and sometimes he couldn't get what he wanted, right when he wanted it. He has become clingier about me specifically and will get upset sometimes when Torsten does something for him that he wanted me to do. He definitely has had some moments of possessiveness and jealousy, telling me "put baby sister in the swing" or "Annika is NOT hungry" when he wants me to put her down and play with him. All normal transition stuff when a little kid gets a sibling.


But oh, he's so sweet. He's so protective of her, already. He likes to hug her and kiss her and he carefully does each of those things and tells her goodnight every night when he goes to bed. If she cries, he comes running, full of solutions. "Mommy, I think baby sister is hungry. Pick her up, mommy. She's not sleeping anymore." He asks about her when he doesn't see her. He talks about her and points out her "little tiny hands" and "little tiny ears." He asks to help feed her and hold her, and likes to help during diaper changes by handing me diapers and wipes. He likes to stroke her head, and has gotten pretty good about being gentle. He brings toys for her and asks me to use them to play with her. He tells me that right now she is too little to walk and talk, but soon she will get bigger and then she'll be able to do those things with him. He talks to her, telling her things that we don't always even manage to hear.


So yeah. It's definitely been a transition for him, and it's had its rough moments, but oh, my sweet boy. I can see already what a good big brother he is. And he seems to be adjusting pretty well. I'm so excited to see this sibling relationship develop as they both get older. Annika is so lucky to have such an amazing brother. I'm so excited to see her grow into her little sister role too. My KIDS. I'm so glad they have each other.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Breastfeeding, this time

Those of you who've been following me since Callum was a baby will remember that breastfeeding didn't go so well with him. I had a seriously, seriously low supply, so even though I breastfed him for four months, until he weaned himself, he had formula from when he was one day old, and quite a bit of it.

I knew it would happen again with Annika. The reason I knew this is that while for many women, low milk supply is a murky, unexplained thing that can change with each baby, in my case there was a clear reason for it--lack of glandular tissue in my breasts. I read some things between pregnancies about Metformin (a mild drug typically taken for diabetes) possibly helping that situation, and so after consulting with my endocrinologist, my lactation consultant, and my midwives, I did start taking that, but when, like last time, I had zero breast changes during my pregnancy with Annika, it seemed pretty clear that I would have supply issues again. And I have.

The nice thing is that this time? I don't care. I truly, honestly, do not care. With Callum I remember all sorts of crazy feelings about the whole thing. When we were in the hospital still and he was one day old and jaundiced and not peeing and the doctor recommended formula and it was four a.m. and Torsten was at home sleeping, I felt like I couldn't give the baby formula because I would be poisoning him, basically, without my husband's consent. I sobbed. I tried so hard to wean him off the formula once we were home, only to see his weight plummet and my supply remain low. I felt like I was letting him down, failing to perform the basic function required of me as his mom--to produce good nutrition for him. I felt like I was letting Torsten down too, and costing us lots of money and hassle. I felt like a failure.

This time? None of that. From the very start, none. Breastfeeding actually started better this time--if I hadn't been through it before, I wouldn't have suspected that anything was up until a few days after Annika was born. I had colostrum, she nursed happily from the start, she wasn't jaundiced, her blood sugar held steady, she had multiple wet diapers, and she lost about 6% of her body weight in the hospital, which is on the high end of the normal range, so still acceptable. My milk came in when she was 2 or 3 days old--but like with Callum, I could barely tell. No engorgement, no pain, no let-down, only the tiniest bit of leaking. So we've been giving her formula since she was two days old. And it's working really well for us.

When she was four days old I went back to my amazing lactation consultant just to kind of discuss everything. I brought her there hungry and she had a great nursing session--latched beautifully, nursed 10+ minutes per side, sucked happily, looked perfect. Even though she knew my history of low supply, the LC was still shocked when Annika's after-nursing weight was exactly the same as her before-nursing weight, meaning she had transferred very little milk--just enough to keep her from actually losing weight from the exertion of feeding. Well under an ounce. I left with a plan to continue nursing her and giving her bottles after, and the knowledge that I was doing everything I could to breastfeed her as much as possible, and that she was thriving, and that our plan of giving her formula was the right one. When I spoke with the LC a few days later and told her how much formula Annika was eating each day (at that time, age one week, it was about 19-20 ounces per day), she was thrilled and said that meant that she is getting probably 5-7 ounces of breastmilk per day, a theory which is corroborated by the amount of breastmilk we see in her poops. So she is getting something. But she is now, at age 6.5 weeks, up to taking somewhere around 25 ounces of formula most days. And she's gaining weight perfectly--tracking beautifully on a percentile curve in the upper 70s.

Honestly? I should probably not say this here in this world of exclusive breastfeeding, but I'm legitimately glad that it worked out this way. Yes, if I had a full milk supply and breastfeeding had turned out to be easy and awesome, that would have been great, but I like the set-up we have. I have read a ton of primary literature about the health impact of formula vs. breastmilk, and I have come out of it absolutely comfortable with formula from a health perspective. I have zero concerns about it whatsoever. I like that we are able to nurse (especially since the literature seems to be concluding more and more that a huge benefit of breastfeeding comes not from the breastmilk, but from the act of nursing), but I like the way formula feeding fits into our lives. Our baby is healthy and growing. We are all sleeping. Torsten is an involved parent. I'm able to leave the house on my own if necessary. I'm not panicking about what's going to happen when I go back to work. I like that we know, truly KNOW, that we are doing what's right for our baby and our family. I don't feel bad about it. I don't feel like I'm letting anyone down. I don't wish it had turned out differently. I don't feel like it's second best. It's not that I've come to terms with this set-up; it's that I am actively glad that this is the way it worked out for us.

And Annika seems to be doing pretty well with the whole thing too: