Sunday, April 27, 2008

Self Soothing

We had sort of a break-through the other day. We've been struggling with Jonah's unwillingness to sleep for weeks now. Nicole has been struggling a lot more than I, since she is home with him all day and has to wake up to feed him many times during the night. The lack of sleep really makes everything harder. You can't think clearly - in my case it meant I was unable to pull my head out of my ass until about three days ago. We were at the end of our ropes and, as it turns out, my rope is considerably shorter than Nicole's. She really needed my help but I was so consumed with my own frustration that I just couldn't see it. Apparently throwing your hands up and stomping out of the room doesn't qualify as support. Who knew? Although the night I'm about to describe didn't lead directly to our breakthrough, it did help get us there. Each night when it comes time for Jonah to settle down and sleep, he often does one of two things: cries like hell or gets super happy and excited. Neither of which involve sleeping. The shushing/singing/rocking thing sometimes works but lately, more often than not, it has no effect at all. So Jonah gets more and more unhappy and I become more and more frustrated. I'm just standing in the bedroom, holding a crying baby and wishing I knew what to do. Knowing that Nicole, who is out in the living room enjoying a few rare minutes of time to herself, will have to come to my rescue yet again.  Jonah could be easily soothed by the breast, but he'd already eaten and we are trying to break that pattern so that he doesn't wake up every hour needing Nicole. We haven't had that many sleepy baby tricks up our sleeves because Jonah seemed to be sleeping more and more, until a couple weeks ago. So, the other night, without a clue as to how to settle the boy down, I put on the Baby Bjorn and headed out for a walk. It was dusk and the temperature was perfect. The moment we stepped outside, Jonah stopped fussing and a calm look settled over his face. I walked back behind our house into the Kalorama neighborhood, between Columbia Road and Connecticut Avenue, where the traffic noise drifts into the distance. So many of the houses in Kalorama have beautiful gardens in front, full of flowers and flowering trees and people sitting out on their stoops, sipping glasses of wine and watching people like me walk by. Jonah, so quiet and still, just took it all in. As we walked past the Chinese embassy, we caught the last few seconds of the nightly free tibet rally when the protesters stand facing the building and sing a song about Tibet. As we continued west, past the beautiful home that serves as French Ambassador's residence, I realized that I had let go of all the tension and frustration that I had been carrying when I left the house. I had been soothed by this quiet, lovely walk. It felt good to be out in the air with Jonah, even if this wouldn't necessarily lead to better night's sleep, I knew it was good for both of us. I looked down and smiled at my son, bobbing along in front of me, sound asleep.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A rainy day

Matthew is away. He's chasing Hillary Clinton around Pennsylvania. It's the first time he's been away from us since Jonah was born. And, tonight will be my first overnight alone with Jonah.

Matthew left pretty early this morning, so it's been me and Jonah all day. It was raining when we got up and for that I was kind of glad. Sometimes I really like a rainy day. It's relaxing. It makes you feel totally OK about staying in your pajamas all day. Though, I had a feeling Jonah wasn't that interested in laying around on the couch with me all day watching bad TV or catching up on my favorite blog.

I did get dressed today. By midday, the rain seemed to be clearing. I decided that we needed to get out for a bit. Maybe hit the grocery store. Or, see if the farmers' market was happening. We need food since yesterday, instead of doing errands, our little family went on a picnic. Since I planned on shopping, I took the stroller so I could load the basket underneath with supplies. (I always feel a little guilty when I go out and don't "wear" Jonah. I don't want Jonah to be a "bucket baby." That's what our midwife, Alice, calls the babies who are carried around in their car seats all the time. It's not like we NEVER do that. Sometimes it makes sense if it's really cold out or the baby is sound asleep and you don't want to wake him from the only good nap he's had all day. But, I really don't understand why people do it as a habit. Alice argues that babies should be held close as much as possible and wearing them in a carrier helps with their socialization because you talk to them more, as well as their coordination and balance. Well, that's great, but frankly, it's just easier to wear my baby than to carry him around in a car seat. I mean, first of all, it's just awkward carrying a car seat, even an empty one, because you have to really use your arm to hold it out far enough so it won't bump you in the leg as you walk. But, when you add a baby, it feels like my arm is going to fall off! I mean that thing can be heavy! I think of this when other parents inquire about my Moby wrap when I'm carrying Jonah, as if they can't believe I'm actually doing it. "Isn't he heavy?" they ask, as they plop down their own bucket baby with a grunt.)

It's not exactly easy getting Jonah and the stroller and the diaper bag out of the house and down the front steps. I'm not strong or courageous enough to move the loaded stroller containing Jonah down the steps, so I have to make several trips, in exactly the right order -- stroller first, leaving the 4-month-old baby momentarily alone in the house (eek!), then run back up, sling diaper back over my shoulder ala messenger bag style so it doesn't slide off, then pick up baby, making sure house key is in my hand or easily accessible so I can lock the door with one hand while holding heavy, squirming baby with the other, then back down the stairs, carefully now because I'm carrying the baby and loaded down with the diaper bag, strap Jonah into the stroller (making sure the wheel lock is on so the stroller doesn't roll around as I adjust things), then clip the diaper bag to the handles of the stroller (a very handy feature of our diaper bag). Whew! Then, we're off. Or, we would have been off if at that very moment the skies hadn't opened up again, as a sudden downpour drenched me and the stroller and the diaper bag and threatened to seep into Jonah's area if I didn't act fast. I brought an umbrella but this was one of those downpours when it's just easier to let yourself get soaked in order to get back indoors quickly. I did my best to get Jonah and all our stuff back inside, but I wasn't even outdoors 10 minutes and my jeans (the one pair that actually fits me) were soaked almost to my knees and Jonah was screaming. He calmed down quickly -- I think he just caught a few raindrops -- I changed back into my pajamas and we spent the afternoon listening to his music -- "Rockabye Baby, the lullaby renditions of Radiohead," and "You are my little bird" by Elizabeth Mitchell -- doing yoga and playing on the floor.

Later, Jonah helped me tidy up the house. I wore him in the Moby and vaccuumed. This mellowed him out, I think, and he went down to sleep around 8 with little fuss. Somehow, I managed to feed the cats and fix myself dinner, too. Now, Jonah and the cats are fast asleep, and I'm finishing off some leftovers and hoping that the baby sleeps for several hours or more. (Like, perhaps, through the night? Yeah, right, but a girl can dream.)

Matthew will be back on Wednesday, but thankfully this is the only night I'm home alone. My sister arrives tomorrow and Jonah -- and mom -- can't wait! ~ Nicole

Saturday, April 19, 2008


It seems like all I do is think about sleep. It’s easy to obsess about it when you’re not getting enough.

About 10 days ago, Jonah started nursing more frequently through the night, like every 90 minutes or so, as if he was a newborn again. You’d think I could handle it, since I survived this kind of sleeplessness in the early days after Jonah was born. But, this time around, after just a few days, I was spent. And, I felt like I was going a little crazy. Or, a lot crazy, if you ask my husband.

Then, at the peak of my sleep deprivation, the Pope came to town. This complicated matters because it meant that Matthew was really busy at work photographing “Papal movements” around Washington, D.C. For several days, he was out the door very early in the morning and often home late.

To try to catch up on some sleep, I did my best to nap when Jonah napped. But, this often left me feeling as if I’d slept the day away, just when it started getting really nice outside. A few days I just gave up my chance to nap to get outside, strolling Jonah through the zoo as he slept. I watched the animals as they slept. I observed other people, studying their faces carefully, wondering how much they get to sleep. Everyone looked much more well-rested than I felt.

I’ve been trying to get Jonah to nurse better during the day so he’ll be less inclined to wake for feedings at night. But, this can be a challenge now that we are out and about a lot more. I’m totally pro-breastfeeding in public, but now that Jonah has become more aware of his surroundings, all he wants to do is look around. I don’t blame him. Pretty much everything he sees is new for him. Imagine how exciting the world would seem if you were seeing birds and trees and cars and buses and hearing all their sounds for the first time in your life!

It’s amazing to think about all the new things he is learning and the connections being made in his brain, but I have to admit it’s hard to think about all that when I’m sitting on a park bench trying to discreetly nurse him and he suddenly turns his head and flips his whole body around, exposing my breast to the whole wide world, my milk squirting all over him and me, as I struggle to hold on to a squirming and strong 16 pound baby while also covering myself up. So, we’ve been staying a bit closer to home, where I can nurse him in the rocker, in the quiet of the bedroom, with the curtains closed, the cats banished to another part of the house.

It can be hard to make plans around this sort of routine. I do my best to get Jonah out of the house every day and interact with other people as much as possible, but the fact is that for large chunks of every week it’s just me and Jonah.

A friend ask me recently, “What have you been doing?” I said, “Um, I don’t know.” At first, I couldn’t really think of what to say. In the past, I would have said something like, “Well, work is crazy busy, but I try to get to yoga or the gym a few times a week, and Matthew and I are going to the Bahamas in a couple weeks, blah, blah, blah…” I guess I could have said, “Well, I change Jonah’s diaper about 10 times a day and then I usually check his neck rolls for dried milk and I still can’t seem to get all the lint out of his belly button. Frankly, I’m worried it will stay there forever! Oh, and I had to change my shirt three times yesterday because Jonah spit up on it.” Luckily, this friend is also a stay at home mom, so she just laughed at my lame answer. Finally, I said, “Well, I sing a lot these days.”

I do get out. Thank goodness for my weekly gathering with several of the women from my birthing class. We take turns hosting the gatherings of moms and babies and we just hang out and talk. It’s the one activity that I’m usually willing to sacrifice Jonah’s nap for. I think it’s the same for the other moms, too. But, it’s because we moms desperately need that connection. The babies were born within a few weeks or months of each other and we are all first-time moms, so meeting up every week allows us to learn from each other and to feel a little less crazy.

Yesterday, all the babies were fussy about an hour into our gathering because they were ready for naps and a couple of us had trouble nursing our curious babies and had to go into a separate room to feed and calm them down. But, none of us skipped our meeting and none of us left early. It’s just that important to us to get together and since it’s only once a week no one feels that guilty about messing up their baby’s routine.

This group has helped me learn that all of us moms and babies have so much in common, but also that no two babies are the same. What works for one baby won’t necessarily work for another.

My friend Maria’s baby is sleeping through the night. She’s a little older than Jonah (no more than a month) but has been sleeping this way since she was 8 weeks old. She is fed exclusively breastmilk, just like Jonah. (I’ve heard that formula babies sleep longer because it takes babies longer to digest the formula.) As far as I can tell, Maria and her baby aren't doing anything drastically different than what we're doing, so it must just be the babies.

Jonah is napping now. He’s so beautiful when he’s asleep. I can’t believe he is real sometimes. I don’t know when I’ll get a full night’s sleep again, but I doubt it will be any time soon. I’m trying hard to not let my sleep deprivation get to me. Acceptance is a huge part of it. I got a little derailed recently and was having trouble accepting things as they were. I’m getting back on track now. This morning, Jonah woke me up with his tossing and turning. He was on the way to waking up himself, but still mostly asleep. I turned on my side and just watched him stretch his small arms over his head and arch his back a little and then just relax again into sleep, his legs frog-like and his body open and vulnerable and totally trusting of his surroundings, safe under the covers in my bed. He sighed and whined a little, like he was going to cry. I said, “Hi baby. Hi Jonah. Good morning.” He opened his eyes and looked at me, blinking and squinting. He smiled. Small at first, and a little crooked. Then, he gave me the big, wide, open-mouthed grin, the kind of smile you can see in his eyes, before shoving his fists in his mouth and squeaking and gurgling, seeming absolutely pleased to see me again. ~ Nicole

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weighing in

Jonah had his 4 month doctor appointment yesterday and he weighed in at a whopping 16 pounds and 9 ounces. And, he's grown to 25 and 3/4 inches long. He's perfect and healthy and seems to be a very happy little boy. We love him so much! ~ Nicole

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Outing

I went out without Jonah last night. To my book club. It was ridiculous how excited I was on my way there. I didn't even know for sure if I was going to be able to go until the very last second. Jonah hasn't yet mastered a bottle. We're still working on it. And, that didn't matter anyway because Matthew had a meeting last night. We worked out a plan. I would put Jonah to bed and Matthew would come home a little early from his meeting. If all went smoothly, Jonah would have a full belly and be just falling asleep as Matthew arrived home. I was skeptical it would work, but while Matthew was out I got ready for book club -- I even showered! -- while Jonah sat happily in his bouncy seat looking at his animals and sucking on his taggy blanket. I watched the clock and Jonah closely for signs of sleepiness. His bedtime is right around the time I wanted to go out, so it meant that everything had to go smoothly -- change diaper, jammies, nurse, swaddle, sleep. Fortunately, Jonah usually goes to sleep rather easily at night. Naps are an altogether different story. But, once in a while, he stays awake longer than expected and needs extra help falling asleep. Matthew told me he'd be home at 7:45 p.m. and I wanted to be able to run out the door as soon after he arrived as possible. I couldn't believe it when I put Jonah down in his co-sleeper, fast asleep, that the clock said 7:44. Then, I heard the click of the key in the door as Matthew arrived home! I grabbed my sweater, purse (my awesome purse from my sister and NOT a diaper bag!) and the gingerbread I made earlier that day and ran out the door. I turned the ringer on my cell phone on the highest possible setting in case I needed to race home for some reason. If Jonah woke up before I got home, he would most likely want to eat and I didn't have any milk ready in the fridge for Matthew to give him a bottle. I was nearly running with excitement as I made my way across the bridge to the subway. By the time I got to the apartment where the book club meeting was being held, I was giddy. Way too giddy for a book club for sure. Jonah was always on my mind, but I did manage to really enjoy myself. I sat around a small, lovely apartment and discussed a book I didn't read (I tried!), ate a delicious meal of butternut squash lasagna and just breathed. It was so great to reconnect with a group of amazing women again after my four-month hiatus. On my way home, I called Matthew to tell him I was on my way, that I was just getting onto the metro. "Metro?" he asked, with a hint of confusion in his voice. "Yeah," I said. "I'm taking the metro." I didn't understand why he was confused. But then he said, "I left the car out front for you. It's been double parked with the flashers on this whole time!" Oops! Apparently, he forgot that my meeting was very close by and even funnier, in my haste and excitement, I apparently didn't even notice the car parked RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR APARTMENT! I was cracking up as I walked down the sidewalk to our house. When I went inside, there was my lovely husband AND my lovely baby, both awake in the living room. Jonah woke up before I got home, but Matthew successfully distracted him long enough -- he was sleepy but happy and not crying. I retired with my baby to the rocker and nursed him back to sleep, happy to have had a little outing but even happier to be home. ~ Nicole

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


So, so, so tired today. Jonah has had a couple of restless nights. That means no one sleeps well. (Well, Sammy and Pete, the cats, sleep well pretty much no matter what. And, they seem to sleep ALL DAY LONG. Little bastards.) Everything is harder without enough sleep. Not that I've gotten enough sleep in a long, long time, but there have been plenty of nights, especially during the past month, when I felt like I got an adequate amount of sleep and felt ready to face the day. And, there were plenty of nights when Matthew said he barely heard a peep from me and Jonah all night. That amazes me, since I seem to wake at the slightest noise lately, particularly if the noise is coming from a small baby boy called Jonah. Well, Jonah is napping now. Who knows how long this will last? If I knew what was good for me I'd go join him. But, there's always this pull between catching up on my sleep when Jonah is asleep -- because it's frankly the only time I'm allowed to sleep, unless Matthew is here to watch Jonah while I nap -- and trying to do a few of the other things that are hard to do when Jonah needs my attention, like email, bills, laundry, dishes, phone calls, reading the newspaper, cooking, cleaning, reading books about how to take care of babies, etc. Jonah just squawked. It's probably just a noise he made in his sleep, but my ears perked up. He didn't cry and all is quiet now, so I guess he's asleep. Ah, sleep. I'm kind of obsessed with it, but so is every other new mom that I know. Jonah is swaddled and dozing. The kitties are cuddled together in their favorite chair, fast asleep. Hey, I'm the only one in the house who is awake! I think I'd better go take a nap. Sweet dreams. ~ Nicole

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Hugo, Hugo and more Hugo!

We know this is a blog all about Jonah, but we are just so thrilled to see some of the first photos of baby Hugo, Jonah's very first cousin. Here he is! Hugo, Hugo and more Hugo!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Welcome to the world, Hugo!

Our family is growing. Our darling nephew was born yesterday. Hugo Joseph Cavanaugh Gualberto arrived at 6 p.m. on April 2, 2008, weighing in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. We are so very excited about his arrival, as he is only about 3 months younger than Jonah. We hope that they will be good friends and pals. We can't wait to meet Hugo in person and wish we could see him right away. (But, he lives far away from us.) Meanwhile, we eagerly await photos of the new boy. His parents, Eliza and Gerard, rock, so Hugo will obviously grow up to be a very cool cat. ~ Nicole

p.s. Apparently, Matthew's mom used to call him "Hugo" when he was a baby, so little baby Hugo is sort of named after Matthew. Sweet.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I like this poem

Nursing Finn

Six times a day
for the past ten months,
in the rocker, on the sofa,
in lawnchairs on the porch,
wedged between two businessmen
on a flight to San Jose, cramped in the cab
of my father-in-law's truck, by the river, in a mall,
at the edges of festivals and moies,
we have settled in, Finn and I, his cheeks fluting
like a small bellows at a great fire, his eyes fluttering
like the most ephemeral of moths.
If I practiced the flute so often, I would be good.
If my garden received such attention, it would fruit
like the arbors of Catherine the Great, where her pensive
son Pavlosk wandered for hours. If my breath stayed so steady,
my body so still and soft, and if I, and everyone else
gave life so freely day after day, would there be
a single problem in the world?

By Leigh Hancock

~ Nicole