When grandparents are the primary caretakers

This week, since our nanny is away in Jamaica for the next two weeks, we have Chris’s parents watching and caring for Kaia during the day while Chris and I work. Since I work from home, I can still help with things like diaper changes and bottle cleaning, so they are primarily responsible for taking her outside (they took her to the play gym yesterday), feeding, and entertaining her. She seems to have adapted to them well; she even likes keeping them company on the bed after she has completely worn them out while they take little naps there. It’s pretty hilarious to watch.

And for the first time yesterday, Chris’s dad actually bottle fed a baby — our baby. According to Chris’s mother, their dad had never even bottle fed either Chris or his brother even once when they were babies, so this was the very first time he’d done a baby feeding. Granted, Chris’s mom burped Kaia, but this was still kind of a big deal. I texted Chris’s brother to let him know, and he was incredulous. “That would be a first!” he exclaimed in response. In fact, Chris’s parents were arguing over who was going to feed Kaia next at her upcoming feed! It was both cute and hilarious to witness.

When your baby doesn’t want mama’s boobs anymore

Since our night nurse stopped working with us at around the three-month mark, I’ve been putting Kaia to bed every night after Chris feeds her. Our usual routine is he will feed and burp her, then hand her off to me in the bedroom so I can cuddle and sing to her, nurse her (for comfort), and then she’ll pass out, and I’ll put her into the bassinet asleep. I’ve always looked forward to this quiet time every night together. Even though I’d made peace with the fact that she wasn’t getting nourished directly from my breasts, I still found comfort and love in the fact that she still wanted my boobs for comfort and security. So in the last week, when I’ve attempted to give her a breast before bed and she’s gotten fussy, I’ve been a bit taken aback and wondering if our nursing time together would be coming to an abrupt end.

It initially started with her rejecting my breast and yelping. Then I’d sing to her to calm her down, and then as she’d get more tired, she’d grab my breast to suckle and then pass out. That’s been going on in the last week. But in the last few days, she just wants nothing to do with my breasts. As soon as I whip out the boob and stick it in her face, she either turns away or starts to yell, indicating she doesn’t want it. It honestly hurt my heart. She was essentially rejecting me, and it didn’t make me feel good. I felt a sinking sensation in my stomach when she rejected my breast tonight, and I wondered if this was really the end. I always imagined comfort nursing her until at least one year, even if I couldn’t nurse her for actual food. But that may have been too idealistic of a fantasy on my part.

My baby’s getting bigger, I keep telling myself. She’s growing up. Soon, she won’t be a baby anymore. She’s not going to want her mama’s boobs once she’s a toddler anymore. And those are all normal things with normal child development. But it doesn’t mean that I feel nothing when all these changes happen. I still get emotional thinking how quickly she is growing and how she needs me a tiny bit less each and every day. Today, she won’t want my boobs anymore. Tomorrow, she may not want cuddles. And the next day, she’ll be running off with her friends and not wanting to spend time with me. Life moves forward.

Transitioning from bassinet to crib

It’s been a bittersweet week, with not only our baby and I getting sick, but also attempting to transition her out of her bassinet and into her crib. We attempted to get her to sleep in the crib before she got sick and failed, as she kept associating the big crib bed with play time and would roll constantly as soon as you laid her down on it. Once she got a fever, I wasn’t comfortable with her in the crib, so we monitored her more closely overnight by having her sleep in the bassinet in our bedroom. On Friday, we got her to successfully sleep in the crib for the first time overnight, and it’s continued through the weekend. I got a little nervous since she was constantly rolling over onto her tummy to sleep, but apparently baby sleep experts say it’s okay for them to roll to sleep on their tummy, as that’s a sign they are strong enough to roll and move their heads enough to ensure they can breathe now.

I’m really happy to see her peacefully sleeping in her crib, enjoying all her newfound space, especially after being so cooped up and cramped in the bassinet in the last month or so. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little sad. I loved having her sleep in our room with us, and now she’s in her big girl room in the second bedroom. I enjoyed nursing her to sleep while side lying on the bed before putting her down in her bassinet. I can’t do that anymore. Now, when I nurse her before bed, I have to sit on the chair by the crib and see if she will take my boob. My baby is only getting bigger. Each day, she’s becoming less like my little baby and more and more like a constantly curious and slightly cheeky little woman. I just can’t believe it. I don’t know how I got this lucky. Every time I look at her little face, I still can’t believe we have her here, happy and healthy and safe and unbelievably cute and pretty. She’s like my little dream come true.

When your baby gets sick for the first time

Last night was unusual. The baby woke up in the middle of the night moaning and eventually crying. We gave her a frozen teether and some infant Tylenol, and she seemed better. We used a forehead thermometer to check her temperature, and it looked normal. But apparently, that wasn’t very accurate in the end.

The nanny took her to story time at the library and said she was really fussy the whole time. She didn’t want to roll around and do tummy time on the mat as she normally does, so the nanny held her the whole time. She did a couple cat naps in the park, which the nanny said was unusual, and her head felt very warm. When she came back and told me this, I took out the rectal/oral thermometer, which is supposed to have a higher level of accuracy, cleaned it, and stuck it in her rectum for a read. When I pulled it out after it beeped, it was there in plain black and white: 103.6 F.

Oh, crap. My baby has a fever, and it’s high! And damnit, that stupid forehead thermometer is inaccurate and terrible!!

I immediately gave her some infant Tylenol and then called the doctor’s office. The doctor emailed back and suggested a dosage every four hours of infant Tylenol, and if her temperature increased, to switch to infant Motrin. We also kept giving her cold compresses and cold teethers. She seemed much better after just an hour of the Tylenol; she started playing with her toes and babbling again.

I was actually feeling miserable and achy all over since late last night. But once I found out Kaia had a fever, I stopped caring about my own sickness and was laser focused on her getting better. I guess what they say is true: once you become a parent, you stop prioritizing your own health and needs and completely focus on your child’s health and well being. She’s only six months old, and she can’t fend for herself or even communicate. She’s basically helpless.

The nanny told me not to worry, that babies get fevers all the time. I just hope hers continues to subside.

Kaia’s first mango: Alphonso from India

The pediatrician suggested we introduce one solid food for three days, then introduce another solid on top of the first one for the next three days, etc. While all that makes sense when you are trying to get your baby familiar with solids and also ensuring that you are identifying any potential food allergies early, there’s really no hard rule on how many and when to do all these introductions. Some parents mix different solids into the same purees. Those who begin with baby led weaning can add 304 different things on the table in front of baby to see how she explores. So I got a little excited… and also worried about the state of our Alphonso mangoes and how long they would stay good for, so I decided.. what the hell. Let’s just let her try some Alphonso today. We gave her some avocado and then some Alphonso mango.

“You know, you’re supposed to introduce one thing at a time for three days…” the nanny said to me, with a half stern, half mocking look on her face.

“We don’t know how long the Alphonsos will be good for, and so we have a small window!” I said defensively. “Plus, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Have you ever heard of a mango allergy?”

She took to the mango pretty well. She loves grabbing the spoon to feed herself and shove into her mouth. I don’t know who said that baby led weaning was cleaner than pureed baby food because this is definitely messy; she got mango and avocado all over her face, hands, bib, shirt, and pants, plus on the nanny’s hands!

Seeing that she enjoyed the mango, now I can confidently say she is really my daughter. 🙂 We can now always say that her first experience with mango was a legitimate Indian Alphonso mango. This makes me very happy — no offense, Mexican ataulfo mangoes.

“World facing” and the bittersweetness of milestones

Now that our baby is over 14 pounds and has excellent neck strength, we placed her into the Ergobaby carrier front-facing for the very first time today. “Front facing” in a baby carrier or stroller is also called “world facing.” While world facing, she gets to observe everything around her and make some sense of the world. As expected, she was extremely curious, constantly moving her head back and forth to take everything in.

Reaching six months is a big milestone. She’s strong on her tummy and with her neck. She’s pushing up on her hands and arms, constantly pivoting and getting stronger. She’s rolling over endlessly in the last few days. She’s world facing in her carrier, and we’ve already stopped using the bassinet attachment on her stroller. This weekend, we’re planning to build her crib so she can stop sleeping in the bassinet that she’s quickly growing out of. With rolling, it’s no longer safe to swaddle her, as well, so swaddling, even if just her legs as we’ve been doing since March, is now coming to an end. And tomorrow, I’m planning to feed her the first solid food she’ll ever have. It’s a lot of big changes all at once, which makes me a little emotional to think she’s growing so quickly, perhaps too quickly, but it makes me feel even more strongly about wanting to be there with her for all these amazing moments to watch her grow and develop into an independent human. Her crib is too big to have in our bedroom even temporarily, so she’ll soon be sleeping in a separate room from us. That makes me sad and a little nervous, but gradually, we just have to let these things go to allow our babies to grow and flourish on their own.

And on top of all that, I promised myself that I’d wean off my fifth pump and go down to four pumps per day once she hit six months of age, so I’ve been gradually pushing my 3pm pump back this week so that I’d officially be down to four pumps by this Monday. Weaning from pumping, even though it’s gradual, also makes me a little sad, as crazy as that sounds given how all consuming and emotionally, mentally draining my pumping schedule was. One day in the near future, I’ll be completely weaned from breastfeeding, and that will have its own set of emotional ups and downs in itself. My body has been able to nourish her so well for this long. And soon, she won’t need my body to nourish her anymore. It is a very bittersweet thought. I feel proud of what I have been able to provide for her, but sad that it’s gradually ending. This is all part of life, I keep telling myself. I have to let her be free to grow and gradually become more and more independent. Chris makes fun of me and says I’d want her sleeping in my bed when she’s 21, but well, that’s just not the case. I genuinely don’t think dads can quite understand this journey because their bodies don’t create or carry or give birth to babies. Their bodies also aren’t capable of feeding babies. This is a uniquely female thing. And in my case, given all I went through with fertility treatments and the insanity and intensity of IVF, it makes all these milestones felt even more deeply; this easily could never have happened for me. And because of that, I am even more grateful for all these moments, all these milestones, knowing my baby is happy and healthy and developing well. These are the emotional attachments that mothers can have to their children. They were once a part of our body. Then, they weren’t. Then, they needed us for sustenance and food. And then, they suddenly don’t. It’s a very emotional journey, one that I would think most mothers hold close to their hearts.

Six month birthday

It is a very happy 6-month birthday for baby Kaia today. The nanny and I took her to the doctor’s for her 6-month routine check up to discover that she is now 14 lb, 13 oz. (6.72 kg). Her weight is in the 25th percentile, which is a huge jump up since at her 4-month appointment, she was only in the 5th percentile; her length/height is in the 55th percentile, and her head circumference is in the 91st percentile! I felt so proud. She’s growing healthily and beautifully, and the doctor was very, very impressed. Unfortunately, she had to have more vaccines today, so she was screaming and having a lot of tears at the doctor’s appointment. After some tears and some time in the stroller, she passed out and eventually started babbling again.

We got the okay to start solids. Her sit-up stance could be stronger, but the doctor said with a harness in her high chair that she should be okay. I’m still unsure if this is just a blanket recommendation just based on her age rather than where she is developmentally, as she isn’t sitting well on her own yet. While I’m excited for the baby to have food outside of breast milk and formula, I am a little nervous about the potential for choking. I want to do a combination of purees and baby led weaning, but maybe for my own peace of mind, we should probably begin with a few purees. I want to do green vegetables first before fruit, since babies naturally have a preference for sweet. So it would be good to introduce her to savory, bitter or green veggies first. The doctor’s suggestion was to start with veggies, fruit, and porridges (like oats) first, then around the 7-8 month mark, begin proteins like chicken, fish, etc. This is all going to change the smell (ugh) and consistency of her bowel movements, but this is the beginning of her becoming a tiny adult in the world. I already took out her teether pop so that I can start filling it with frozen purees and breast milk. It’s going to be an exciting adventure just watching her eat to see what she likes and doesn’t like.

When baby is wide awake at 5am

Chris has been away on a short work trip since Wednesday and won’t be returning until tomorrow, which means that I am basically on night duty. This means I am responsible for “stretching” the baby’s sleep and ensuring that if/when she wakes up in the middle of the night that I stick the pacifier in her mouth to soothe and get her back to sleep. Luckily for me, the first night was actually pretty good: last night, she didn’t stir and yelp until about 4am. I quickly put the paci in her mouth, and she fell right back asleep. Then an hour later, at 5am, she woke up yet again, except this time, her eyes were wide open, she was nearly kicking her legs out, and she was moving so rapidly that the entire bassinet was nearly bouncing. As soon as she saw my face, she broke out into a huge smile and started kicking even harder, indicating she wanted out.

Ummmm, no. I still need to sleep for at least an hour and a half. Mommy is NOT taking you out to hold and cuddle you at 5am.

I gave her the pacifier and told her that I needed to sleep, and maybe if she was good, I’d take her out at around 6:40. She ended up falling back asleep to then wake up again at 6:15 with nonstop babble. I heard her babbling from the bed and decided to let her babble to herself for about 25 minutes while I got some shut-eye time. I eventually took her out and plopped her onto the bed, which she absolutely adores being on. She just loves being on the bed with us. We snuggled and she kicked her legs, and I got her bottle ready for her feeding.

It’s hard to get mad at her for waking up early when she’s so darn cute. While I want to indulge her and spend time with her, I also need my sleep time to stay sane, so there needs to be some balance. I told this, but she didn’t seem to care what I said. Oh, babies. She will learn some day.

Redefining “grandparenting”

This morning, Chris’s parents arrived bright and early to see us after 2.5 years, and to finally meet Kaia Pookie. I always imagined this meet and greet to be a little funny. I imagined Chris’s mom being super excited but not being quite sure what to say other than repeatedly saying, “hello, baby girl! Hello!” over and over (accurate). I imagined her wanting to hold her and take endless photos of her. I imagined Chris’s dad picking Kaia up to hold her briefly, then handing her to someone else so that he could do something on his phone or computer, or both. I envisioned lots of posed photos of the two of them with the baby. I didn’t envision much actual childcare, and well, I knew for a fact his dad would never so much as wipe her face since he never did that with his own sons. Some people are surprised by their parents; in this case, I highly doubted a diaper change or feed would happen.

I think I was about 95% accurate in how I imagined things would be. They’re obviously very happy to be reunited with us and to finally meet their grandchild, but the excitement of meeting the baby tends to wane after a bit, and they get a little bored at times and would rather be on their mobile devices, computers, and sending endless photos of themselves with the baby to relatives for a stream of reactions. There were multiple points of the day when literally every adult was in the room on their mobile phone for prolonged periods of time, and the baby is lying on her belly or back on the mat with no one with her. It was pretty comical to observe. It actually looked a little funny at one point when Chris’s mom was sitting at the table while we were all having drinks outdoors, going through endless photos of the baby on Chris’s phone… while the baby was sitting right in front of her. I thought the whole point of coming was to actually see and spend time with the baby in person?

My friend, who has her mom taking care of her baby two days a week, said that in previous generations, grandparents wanted to be very hands on with their grandchildren in raising and spending time with them. In the current generation of grandparents as she says, grandparents seem more interested in having grandparent bragging rights and using their grandchildren as an accessory in photos. Grandparenting is more of a “hobby.” That may be the case, but no grandparent of our parents’ generation is ever going to admit that to anyone.

Traveling with baby for the first time

Our baby is just over 24 weeks old, and Chris thought that Memorial Day weekend would be a good long weekend to take a short trip with her away for the first time. He suggested Philadelphia, which I wasn’t initially that excited about, but this destination made sense for a couple reasons: 1) it’s a 2-hour driving distance away, so not too far but not too close, 2) Philly has a great food scene, so it would be fun for us to eat our way through it, plus they have an expanding beer and wine scene, as well. Two nights away in a new environment and new crib would be a good initial test to see how well our baby does with travel and adaptability.

Travel itself with the baby doesn’t really stress me out as it likely does with a lot of first time parents. What stresses me out more is pumping milk while traveling: knowing when to pump, when I can do it with my regular pump vs. portable pump, milk storage and transport — those are the things that make me a little tense when I’m thinking about being mobile and not at home. I ended up just skipping one pump per day during this trip to ensure we’d be more mobile and get from place to place, even though my breasts felt uncomfortable because of it. I made sure to take extra sunflower lecithin pills to prevent any clogs that could happen from doing this. Once your body is on a pumping schedule, it doesn’t really like it when you go off schedule unless you gradually wean.

The baby slept almost the whole drive to Philly, and throughout the trip, she has been in good spirits, smiling and babbling away. She’s only had one little fussy moment while at the winery today, and she has been sleeping well in the big pack-n-play crib that the hotel provided. She’s not used to sleeping with this much space: when we laid her down in it, she spread her arms and legs out wide as though she was an oversized starfish. She can’t really do this in her bassinet that she’s soon to outgrow now. It was cute to see her in new environments and her reactions to different places and things. She’s at this really cute and fun age where she’s responsive to everything but because she can’t speak yet, she can’t give attitude or talk back. I love this current development phase and how cute and sweet she is. I hope she continues to be an easy baby to travel with, especially since a friend of mine keeps warning me that the older she gets, the less adaptable she will be and the more difficult she will be in new surroundings or a new crib/bed.