Saturday, April 27, 2013

You Don't Know What You're Getting Yourself Into

When my surrogate was pregnant and I told people Derek and I were expecting I heard two different answers..

Parenthood is the most wonderful, amazing, and beautiful experience in the world. 

Or...

You don't know what you're getting yourself into.

I didn't like either one of these answers.  The first seemed to mean that I was supposed to love every second of fatherhood and life would be filled with rainbows and unicorns.  The second answer meant that I was going to destroy my life and everyone's around me and that I couldn't handle what was in store for me.

A year into parenthood I'm here to say what I have heard very few people say - both statements are correct.

I'm going to start by addressing the second statement.  I have had some conversations with people where we have said the unthinkable - What have I done???  Why did I do this???  Can't I return my kids for one with an off switch???  I feel like parents are taught that it's shameful to think this.  Several friends I have and almost all the bloggers I follow have gone through tough, expensive and sometimes extreme measures to have a child -  adoption, surrogacy, fertility treatments, miscarriages, flying back and forth to India, and more - and have sworn that they will never take one minute of parenthood for granted.  I swore the same thing.

However, last week this lofty promise was broken.  My kids were back to (usually) waking up once a night (sometimes twice) and then they would always wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. for a bottle which didn't make me a happy daddy.  Aaron has started throwing tantrums.  Jeff steals every toy Aaron has.  Neither one of them likes milk from sippy cups.  They won't give up their pacifiers for naps.

I lost my one and only copy of my car key and with a 15 year old car it's not easy to replace the key.  Tax season was upon us and taxes are always stressful.  This week my car wouldn't start thanks to a dead battery and of course it was a day I needed my car to get to the suburbs. 

Add to this the fact that at work my department went from five interpreters to three about two months ago and the three of us left have been overwhelmed.  Plus last week the universe decided to give me tough interpreting situations filled with unfit mothers, violent sexual offenders and terminally ill patients.

Top that off with the fact that I have friends I haven't seen or talked to in a long time and almost no social life. 

With all of that going on I felt like I had given up my career, my friends and my life and was doomed to an eternity of 5:00 a.m. feedings, an overwhelming work schedule for the little bit I worked and wanting to pass out on the couch before 9:00 p.m. after listening to 12 hours of crying in stereo.

Yes, parenthood is messy.  It's exhausting.  It's filled with screams, poop, sleepless nights, drool, spit up, pee, worry, wasted food, endless laundry, endless dishes, fights to put on a diaper, fights to take off a diaper, fights to get kids to eat, fights to get kids not to eat, and the list goes on and on and on and on.  And do I like it?  No, not always.  It's not what I dreamed fatherhood would be.  It's nearly impossible to describe how children affect your career, your social life, your physical well being, your state of mind, your finances, your relationships, etc.  It's hard.  People who have forgotten what it's like to live with an infant or toddler (or two!) may say they can't believe I would say such a thing.  But I bet most of you new parents out there are secretly agreeing with what I'm saying.  Parenthood isn't always fun.

BUT...

(Here's comes the part that people expect parents to say.)

When you say the word "spin" Aaron spins around once or twice with a smile on his face and Jeff spins until he is dizzy, giggles, and falls down.  Aaron knows the sign for shoes and can bring me his shoes if I ask for them.  Jeff recently showed me he learned the sign for about five different animals.  I see the beginning of language emerging.  As someone who works with language, sees the power of language, loves languages, and keeps considering getting my masters in linguistics to study language acquisition I am amazed by what is happening now.  Words can't describe how thrilled I am to watch communication develop.  I was happy to see my boys roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk.  Don't get me wrong; those were amazing milestones.  But language allows me to know my children, know their thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams.  Language is such a powerful tool and as it begins to develop in my children I do believe that, like people told me, parenthood is the most wonderful, amazing and beautiful experience in the world.


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Sleep Part 14: Conflicting Advice

Do we all see that I'm writing this post at 2-something-a.m.?  Yep, that means I'm up with a child again.  Don't worry...it's not that bad.  Things are pretty good in the sleep department.  Just note that pretty good doesn't mean perfect.  You'll see more in a post coming soon.  Since I'm up in the middle of the night I thought it would be appropriate to post a great piece of advice that my friend, B, sent to Derek and me.  It's one mother's summary of what she learned about sleep training.  Here is Ava Neyer's take on what she learned from the (cough cough) experts.

"You shouldn’t sleep train at all, before a year, before 6 months, or before 4 months, but if you wait too late, your baby will never be able to sleep without you. College-aged children never need to be nursed, rocked, helped to sleep, so don’t worry about any bad habits. Nursing, rocking, singing, swaddling, etc to sleep are all bad habits and should be stopped immediately.
Naps should only be taken in the bed, never in a swing, car seat, stroller, or when worn. Letting them sleep in the car seat or swing will damage their skulls. If your baby has trouble falling asleep in the bed, put them in a swing, car seat, stroller, or wear them. Use the crib only for sleep and keep it free of distractions. If the baby is having trouble adjusting to the crib, have them play in it first. If the baby wakes up at night and wants to play, put fun toys in the crib to distract them.
Put the baby in a nursery, bed in your room, in your bed. Co-sleeping is the best way to get sleep, except that it can kill your baby, so never, ever do it. If your baby doesn't die, you will need to bed-share until college.
Keep the room warm, but not too warm. Swaddle the baby tightly, but not too tightly. Put them on their backs to sleep, but don't let them be on their backs too long or they will be developmentally delayed. Give them a pacifier to reduce SIDS. Be careful about pacifiers because they can cause nursing problems and stop your baby from sleeping soundly. If your baby sleeps too soundly, they’ll die of SIDS.
Don’t let your baby sleep too long, except when they’ve been napping too much, then you should wake them. Never wake a sleeping baby. Any baby problem can be solved by putting them to bed earlier, even if they are waking up too early. If your baby wakes up too early, put them to bed later or cut out a nap. Don’t let them nap after 5 p.m. Sleep begets sleep, so try to get your child to sleep as much as possible. Put the baby to bed awake but drowsy. Don't wake the baby if it fell asleep while nursing.
You should start a routine and keep track of everything. Don’t watch the clock. Put them on a schedule. Scheduling will make your life impossible because they will constantly be thrown off of it and you will become a prisoner in your home.
Using the "Cry It Out" method (CIO) will make them think they’ve been abandoned and will be eaten by a lion shortly. It also causes brain damage. Not getting enough sleep will cause behavior and mental problems, so be sure to put them to sleep by any means necessary, especially CIO, which is the most effective form. CIO is cruel beyond belief and the only thing that truly works because parents are a distraction.
Formula and solid foods will help the baby sleep longer. Solid foods shouldn’t be given at night because they might wake the baby. Don't stop the baby from nursing when asleep. Be wary of night feeds. If you respond too quickly with food or comfort, your baby is manipulating you. Babies can’t manipulate. Babies older than six months can manipulate.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans. Don’t worry. Stress causes your baby stress and a stressed baby won't sleep."
Anyone else feel like they have heard or read every one of these pieces from advice from an expert?  If we all tried to follow these conflicting pieces of advice it's no wonder our babies are confused, stressed and crying a lot...oh wait, I mean it's no wonder the parents are confused, stressed and crying a lot.  That's why Derek and I have learned to do what we think is best for our children.  I think we're doing OK and our kids are too.