Monday, March 31, 2014

A Man's Touch?

        Did I mention I have a husband? Oh, yeah. I've had him for about forty years now and he's holding up pretty well. He's not brand new or anything but he still works good. I view husbands the way I view cars – as long as they're still reliable and not costing you a lot of money there is no reason to trade them in. So I guess I'll keep him. I just have to be careful now that Kiley's here because men aren't really good around babies. Oh, I know, there are some men who are great with babies but generally speaking most men are not. They're clumsy around babies, unsure of themselves, out of their depth. They're afraid of diapers.

When you first bring a new baby into the house you have to watch the man the same way you have to watch the dog. You know, how is he going to react? Is he going to be jealous? Nippy? So it's best to introduce them graaaadually. Let him sniff it, men seem to like the smell of babies' heads for some reason, at least mine does, but don't let him get too close at first. Let him touch it, reminding him to be gentle in a soothing, non-judgmental voice. Always find ways to praise him and show him extra attention whenever the baby is around. Do it right and in no time at all that wonderful man of yours will warm right up to the little critter and, before you know it, he'll be as oblivious of the baby as he is of everything else. Then you can relax.

Just this past week I was having a bad day with Kiley. Crying and crying, nothing would soothe her. No nap! And it was one of those deals where you can't figure out what's wrong. Does she have a stomachache? She doesn't act like her stomach hurts, you know, pulling her knees up and all. She doesn't have diaper rash, doesn't have a fever. Teething is months away. Do babies get headaches? I suppose they do, but there's no way of telling. Anyway, this had been going on all day and by the middle of the afternoon I was worn out, frazzled. If only she would just go to sleep!

       At this point my husband decides to come in from the garage where he had been hiding and wash his hands. He looks over at us from the sink and says, "What's wrong with the baby?" Now, is this a rhetorical question? The baby has been fussing for five hours straight; doesn't he think that if I knew what was "wrong with the baby" that I would do something to fix the situation? I stifle the urge to say something sarcastic and in a calm yet icy tone I say, "I - Don't - Know". At this, he comes over to us and says, "Here, give her to me."  Mind you, this the same man that I once came home to find using a garden hose to clean our firstborn's butt because he didn't want to "get any" on him. The same man that suggested we rub a little whiskey on our daughter's gums because that's the method for dealing with teething pain his great grandmother used at the turn of the century. The guy who thought it would be a good idea to duct tape the pacifier to our baby's hand so she wouldn't lose it so much, (I wouldn't let him do it). So needless to say, when he offered to take the baby I was a tad hesitant. But I was at my wit's end, and besides, all of that other stuff happened nearly forty years ago and surely by this time………. Well, let's just say I was open to anything, so I handed her over.

        I figured fifteen minutes of fresh air and quiet out back on the deck would be just what I needed, but after five minutes I couldn't take the suspense anymore – what was he doing in there?  So I go in and I find him in the kitchen, walking Kiley back and forth and singing, yes singing! At least I think that's what it was. It was a low pitched, almost growling kind of sound that I can only describe as "menacing" but definitely a song. And what song did my life's companion choose as a lullaby? "Rock-a-bye Baby"? "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"? "The Owl and the Pussy Cat" perhaps?  Noooo.  Apparently, he thought that the best tune for lulling an infant to sleep would be "Sixteen Tons", an old song about the hopeless lives of coal miners back before the depression. Typical.

        "I was born one morning when the sun didn't shine".
Oh yeah, now there's a positive, optimistic sentiment to be crooning to a baby. Luckily, Kiley doesn't speak English. God only knows what effect it would have on her outlook toward life. Where do men come from that they think in this way? They say if women are from Venus then men are from Mars, but they're not. They're from a dark planet in some obscure galaxy beyond the observable universe. Some place so far away that the same laws of physics don't even apply. How else do you explain it?

"I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine".
He has her head on his shoulder and the side of his face pressed up against the side of her's so that he's singing - or is it barking? - right in her ear. Oh, I'm sure that will get her to "drift off".

"I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal".
He's patting her on the bottom in time with the "music", which is good, but does he have to be so rough? My mom always told me "Pat them so they know you mean it", but this is ridiculous. Getting them to stop crying by knocking the wind out of them is not a valid strategy.

"And the store-boss said, 'well bless my soul'".
"Store-boss?" Men and babies just don't go together the way that women and babies do. Women and babies go together like milk and cookies. They're a natural fit. Men and babies are like beer and cookies. Sure you can eat cookies with beer but pretzels go a lot better, and by "pretzels" I mean football.

"You load sixteen tons, whatta ya get?"
I hope that sweatshirt he's wearing is clean. He never seems to grasp the importance of cleanliness when it comes to babies. If he dropped applesauce on the floor he would probably scoop it right back up with the spoon and shove it right in the baby's mouth. Apparently the "five second rule" applies even to infants despite the fact that their immune systems aren't fully developed.

"Another day older and deeper in debt".
Where did her socks go? He has her for ten minutes and her socks are gone. And this is the guy who has to have not only socks on at all times but also these horrifying "bear paw" slippers that he insists on wearing. He walks around the house with warm feet that look like grizzly bear paws, big claws sticking out of them. But the baby?  Nahhh, let her go barefoot. This is what I mean; they just don't have the ability, natural instinct, or even common sense to know what's best when it comes to babies.

"Saint Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go".
God love him for wanting to help, but just like you don't let a four-year-old do electrical wiring, you don't let a man take too much charge of the baby. Good intentions aside, somebody's going to get hurt. You don't want to damage his ego or hurt his feelings but sometimes being a responsible adult requires that you to do things you don't want to do.  It is our duty as mothers.

"I owe my soul to the company store."
She's asleep.
God, help me!     click (here)


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Whites of Their Eyes

Legend has it that at the Battle of New Orleans, in the War of 1812, as the British army was approaching, future president Andrew Jackson instructed the soldiers under his command to hold their fire until they could see the whites of their enemy's eyes. (At least that's what my husband tells me.) The purpose, it seems, was to allow the British to come within a range that would maximize the effectiveness of the American musket fire. It may be true that, in early nineteenth century warfare, being able to see the whites of your opponent's eyes was sometimes a tactical advantage, but in early twenty-first century childcare it can sometimes be a distinct disadvantage.

Strange as it may sound, I am reminded of "Old Hickory" every day at nap time. As many have, Kiley and I have developed a nap time routine to help lull her to sleep. It's a common and simple routine. After she is full and dry, I hold her close to me while sitting in a particular, comfy chair. Then with her head nestled on my shoulder I sing numerous and monotonous repetitions of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in a progressively softer voice while patting her progressively softer on the bottom. If I do this long enough she will fall asleep, provided, that is, that we do not make eye contact.

       Babies instinctively know that the old axiom is true – "The eyes are the windows to the soul." When you make eye contact with a baby of Kiley's age you make one of the limited personal connections that they are capable of. They can't speak or understand language, they're not on face book, they don't text, and they don't tweet. What they can do is connect directly to people through physical contact and indirectly through making sounds and eye contact. Letting Kiley make even brief eye contact with me while I'm trying to get her to sleep can set back my plans by a good five minutes. If I let that happen just four times I'm looking at an extra twenty minutes of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". That!… Cannot!… Happen!

       Since my sanity depends on ensuring that Kiley does not look me in the eye at nap time, I have developed a strategy to avoid any kind of eye contact at this critical time. If possible, I position her head so that she is facing away from me. That doesn't always work. In fact, since she can now turn her head, if only clumsily, it rarely works. That forces me to revert to my back up position – keeping my own eyes closed. This method generally works but is not infallible. There have been many occasions when I have risked a peek to see how things are going only to be met by Kiley's unwavering stare. In fact it has now devolved into a perverse kind of contest where I am striving to keep my eyes closed longer than she can keep her's open and vice versa. Each one of us determined to outlast the other. On many occasions I have literally felt her stare burning into my closed eyelids, willing them to open. I'm serious. Sometimes I think she has this creepy ability. On more than one occasion I have been suddenly overwhelmed by an intense desire to open my eyes that comes from - I don't know where. And when I do, Dang!, it's another five minutes in the "Boat". And then there is the danger that I, as the one with her eyes closed, will be the one who falls asleep. This has actually happened several times and each time, upon jolting back to consciousness, I find her staring at me with a knowing and, what looks like, mocking smile.

        Never-the-less, I have the advantage. I am the adult in this equation, and regardless of any psychokinetic power she may or may not have, I have the greater will power. In the end I always win and she eventually succumbs to the need for sleep that is so strong in people her age. So remember, if you want to be victorious in the Battle of Nap Time don't let the "enemy" see the whites of your eyes. It's a winning strategy. If the British had only kept their eyes closed during the Battle of New Orleans we might all be speaking British now.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Assume The Position

        Nap time! Putting the baby down for a nap, sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world to do, doesn't it? I mean, it's sleep were talking about here. It's natural. Everyone does it, all of their lives. In fact sleeping is so natural that it's mostly involuntary, like breathing. That's why we refer to it as "falling asleep". "Falling asleep" is like "falling in love", it's not something you do it's something that happens to you. (The exception of course is those poor souls who suffer from insomnia. I've been there and trust me, when you can't quite seem to accomplish something that your body demands that you do, it is no picnic.) But insomnia aside, nap time should be simple, right? Wrong! Unfortunately, when it comes to babies everything usually turns out to be harder than it should be. Sleeping is no exception.

        There are many factors that impact baby's sleep time. I touched on some of them in my second post "Getting the System Down". Wellness, fullness, tiredness, contentedness, they all have an effect on how long and how well the little ones sleep. All of these factors, however, are peripheral. Babies require a lot of sleep. And discounting the occasional bad day, once babies settle into a pattern (and this can take some time to establish), they usually can be counted on to sleep regularly and often. But that is not what we are talking about here. There is another problem that has recently sprung-up in this modern age of pediatric science. And though it can sound absurd, especially to those of us born into an earlier generation, it is a serious one. What I'm talking about is sleeping position.

        For thousands of years it was simple. You put the baby down, a few pats, a few "hushes", tiptoe away, done. Now, when nap time arrives and you gleefully snatch up your little stinker and caper joyously to the cradle, or crib, or bassinet, or whatever you use to contain the little darling, you are faced with a decision. How do I lay baby down? On her stomach? On his back? On its side? The decision, though seemingly innocuous, is fraught with potential consequences, even danger. Yes, danger. Inoculation (the dreaded shots) has driven back the baby-getters of old – The Measles, The Mumps, Diphtheria, but in our lifetimes a new monster has crept into the nursery. You know what I'm talking about, though mothers don't even like to think its name let alone say it – the SIDS.

        Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, what used to be called "crib death", is the leading cause of death in infants younger than one year old. SIDS is particularly worrisome because there is no known cause or symptoms and strikes infants that are seemingly healthy (how frightening!). When an infant dies in its sleep and no other cause can be found, the death is determined to be due to SIDS. This begs the question of whether it is a real condition or merely a label for any death by unknown cause. And I must admit, that when it first reared its ugly head and gained widespread attention in the eighties many of us were skeptical about its validity. There is, however, too much data on the subject to write it off as merely another instance of doctors not knowing what they are talking about (the wise mother never forgets that doctors are not infallible). There are, no doubt, instances when the real cause of death is merely overlooked and the diagnosis of SIDS is incorrectly made. However, there are so many SIDS occurrences identical to each other that we have to admit it is a real condition, at least for the purpose of determining how to care for our babies.

        Over the years many suggestions to reduce the potential for SIDS have sprung up. The use of a pacifier, keeping baby cool while it sleeps, eliminating tobacco-smoke exposure, better prenatal care, the list goes on.  There are even products and devices that claim to reduce the risk. I don't know about the usefulness of any of this stuff. You can find out all about them on the Internet. What I do believe is that babies sleeping on their stomachs is a major contributing factor to this horror.

         In 1992 only 13% of mothers placed their babies on their backs to sleep. The rest were sleeping on their stomachs. This was normal and had been for who knows how long. Then, in 1994, after a connection between SIDS and sleeping on the stomach had been established, the Safe To Sleep campaign (originally known as the Back To Sleep campaign) was launched to educate the public and convince mothers to place their babies on their backs to sleep. By the year 2006 the percentage of babies sleeping on their backs had increased from 13% to 76% and the incidence of SIDS had dropped by 50%. That's pretty good, and a pretty good indication that babies sleeping on their backs helps prevent SIDS.

        The practice of having babies sleep on their backs, however, is not without problems. Babies sleep less soundly and less deeply and for shorter periods of time when on their backs. This may be exactly why it has a positive impact on the incidence of SIDS. Unfortunately, this makes our jobs as mothers and care givers harder. (Get used to it. What is best for our babies is often hard for us.) The easy sleeping baby is the best baby of all. I want an easy sleeping baby so bad, but wouldn't you know it, the best position for easy sleep is also dangerous. We used to think it was the other way around. Babies are always spitting up, so when I was a young mother we were afraid of babies choking if they slept on their backs, like little Janis Joplins (when you are a mother there is always something to worry about isn't there?). But apparently studies show that is not a real danger. What you do have to watch out for is the flattening of the back of baby's head. Babies skulls are still growing and therefore soft and having them lie on their backs over a long period of time can cause the back of their heads to become flat. I've seen this, and believe me; you do not want this to happen to your baby. To prevent it, we just have to keep an eye on it and make sure they spend a lot of their awake time on their stomachs. Kiley's head still looks nice and round.

        This is my fifth posting and the first one that wasn't fun to write. But it has been on my mind ever since Kiley came to me, as I am sure it is on the minds of many others. It is not something we like to think about, because it is frightening. But we do think about it, because mothers are brave when it comes to their children, and it is our nature to face the fear when they are in danger. We do what we must to ensure their safety. So, come on Kiley. It's nap time. I know you like to sleep on your stomach, most babies do. Sorry, but you are going to have to assume the position – On Your Back. You might not sleep easier, but I will.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Five Second Rule

          Have you heard? A scientific study claims to have proven the validity of the age old "Five Second Rule". For those who are new to this planet, the "Five Second Rule" states that any food dropped on the floor is perfectly safe to eat as long as it is picked up within five seconds of being dropped. The logic being that five seconds is not long enough for the food to become contaminated by whatever microbes might be lurking on the surfaces we walk on. Mothers have used the "Five Second Rule" since time immemorial to decide whether to waste their toddlers' food supply simply because it has slipped from their less than coordinated grasp. I'm sure even Nanny Neanderthal was snatching woolly mammoth meat off of the cave floor and "kissing it up to God". It's a time-honored tradition.

I think we can safely say this is just another instance of science slowly catching up to common wisdom. I have often said doctors, and by inference scientists in general, don't know everything, and that the latest clinical study is only valid until the next one refutes it. So many scientific studies rely, at some point, on statistical analysis that it makes the conclusions subject to doubt, as far I am concerned. It is a well-designed experiment, indeed, in which one can be absolutely positive no unaccounted for influences are skewing the results. A wise man once said there are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. I adhere to that principle because statistics are always subject to interpretation and, therefore, can be made to prove just about anything. That's why politicians cite them so often.

Statistics aside, you only have to use your own common sense and experience to come to the same conclusion as this latest study. (I hope our tax dollars weren't used to fund it but I'm not counting on that. Regardless of the fact that the study was done in a foreign country, this is exactly the kind of thing that our elected representatives, in their infinite wisdom, are fond of wasting our hard-earned money on). Heck, forget about experience and common sense just use your own eyes. Have you ever looked at a toddler's hands? The floor is far more sanitary! Our kids would probably be safer if we velcroed their hands behind their backs and had them lick their food right off the kitchen tiles. In fact, I'm going to start an outreach program to "raise awareness" of the dangers that America's mothers are exposing their children to by allowing them to actually touch their food. The slogan will be:  " Want to be sure? Use the floor." Maybe I can get government funding for it.


Monday, March 17, 2014

The Milk of Human Kindness

          Got milk? You'd better. Milk is the most essential aspect of this whole baby business. And, as you may know, I'm not talking about that gallon of Grade-A-Vitamin-D you pull out of the fridge to put in your coffee or give to the cat. No, it's a little more complicated than that. And by "complicated" I mean inconvenient. We may be the top of the food chain, the alpha species, masters of the world, the pinnacle of creation and the image of God, but like the rats and the dogs we're still mammals and in at least one respect that sucks.

          Yep, we're talking mother's-milk here. Nursing. It's all the rage these days. Everyone is doing it. Pediatricians recommend it, in fact they practically insist upon it. And that has a big impact. In generations past young mothers relied on the advice of their own mothers when it came to baby care. Now they rely on the advice of pediatricians. That's all well and good but don't be surprised when your babies have their own babies and the doctors are giving them advice that is completely different from what they're giving to you. That's because their advice is based on the latest clinical study rather than experience. Science doesn't know everything. Still, I'm all for whatever is best for Kiley, and it seems only logical that the milk that comes from Mom would have the optimal amount of everything needed for a healthy baby. God engineered it that way through millions of years of evolution and who am I to argue with God or with Darwin for that matter. But what's best isn't always easy and there is a lot of downside to the mother's-milk equation.

          Essentially, it boils down to the logistics of it all. You can't just go out and buy a gallon at the ACME. (Though, now that I think of it, there might be a revolutionary, new business opportunity there. Some kind of farm would have to be involved. Hmmm, let me jot that down.) No, this is all home made stuff, a completely individualized commodity. In earlier times this was not a problem, in fact it was an advantage. Milk for the baby was always available, on tap. Conversely, the baby was always available for the milk. But that was when mothers were working in the home. Most of us can't afford to do that anymore, and mother and baby are routinely separated for long periods of time. (I haven't figured out who to blame for that yet, but I will.) Necessity being the mother of invention, the "pump" was born. So now we extract the precious substance through mechanical means, bottle it, and it goes along with the babies wherever they go. Ah, the modern age!

          Now, if that were all there was to it there wouldn't be much of a problem, but that's not all there is to it. Babies run on milk the way that our civilization runs on oil. And, as with every other commodity, there needs to be a balance between supply and demand. When the demand for a commodity exceeds the supply the price goes up. With Saudi Arabian crude that price is delineated in "dollars", with mother's-milk it's delineated in "cranky-baby".  

          Unfortunately, I've found that, quite often, demand is greater than supply. Babies are always hungry and mother's milk doesn't seem to go very far. It's not the same as whole milk. Maybe it's my imagination, but it even looks a little thin – unsubstantial. Kiley's mother sends me enough milk for her to drink four bottles per day, one every three hours. That's her feeding schedule at home and her mother wants me to maintain that schedule when Kiley is with me. And though this seems like it should be enough, sometimes it doesn't seem to be enough. Kiley always wants the bottle. Usually, when she's not sleeping she wants to eat, and when I don't feed her when she wants it she rebels. Still, it is important to keep babies on a feeding schedule. If you let them, they would "graze" all day long like cattle, and that is the road to a fat baby.

          But it's a problem. Some days I spend most of my time "holding her off" in any way I can until the next appointed feeding time and this is not always easy to do. I play with her and give her the binky. I sing to her and give her the binky. I put on Mickey Mouse and give her the binky. I dance her around the kitchen, I walk her up and down the hallway, I put her in the stroller and push her up and down the hallway and I give her the binky. I do everything I can think of to distract her until feeding time, but as the hour approaches my strategy becomes less and less effective until nothing will calm her but the bottle and sometimes that moment arrives as much as an hour before feeding time. If I feed her too early then the time until her next feeding is even longer and harder to manage. When I put her down for a nap I pray that she sleeps good and long because that gets her closer to her next feeding. If she wakes early I've got a problem. These days managing milk is sometimes the hardest part of a caregiver's job.

          It wasn't always this way. Back in the early seventies, when I was first becoming a mother, no one breast fed. It just wasn't done. We were modern girls raised in the scientific age and science was always making life progressively easier. When they asked you in the maternity ward if you were going to breast feed, you looked at them like they were speaking a foreign language. 'Breast feed? What is this the dark ages? How barbaric! Next you'll expect me to take my wash down to the river and pound it on the rocks. Nobody has breast fed since Buddy Holly died. Breast feed? Hell no, give me the shot!'

          Why would anyone breast feed when we had baby formula "scientifically formulated for maximum infant nutrition"? Wonder liquids with scientific sounding and vaguely suggestive names like Similac (similar to lactation) and Enfamil (infant meal). Pediatricians recommended it, in fact they practically insisted on it. (Sound familiar?) And it was so easy! We fed them formula for the first three months then, boom! right to whole milk. Not satisfied with that, we mixed baby cereal in with the milk until it was the consistency of loose oatmeal, cut the hole in the nipple bigger and let them go to town. That stuck to the ribs, yeah boy, and oh did they sleep good!

          But those days are gone, at least for now. It may swing back around again, these things usually do. There are few things more transitory than pediatric wisdom. But for now its mother's milk all the way, though I must admit slipping a little whole milk in there now and then sounds pretty tempting, if only to create a quiet afternoon. But I'm not Kiley's mother. I'm just her "Nan". Her mother wants her to be raised a certain way and when it comes to Kiley her mother's word is law. There is nothing more "ours" than our children and to go against the wishes of Kiley's mother in this, or anything else concerning Kiley, would be a betrayal unworthy of women who respect each other.

          So fire-up the pump and keep it coming. I can hear that baby's stomach growling from here. Before we know it she'll be eating carrots and spinach in a high chair, then mac & cheese from her own spoon and a fistful of cheerios for a snack. Then it will be a lot easier to make her wait for lunch, but for now Kiley's still in control. She's calling the shots. The trouble is I think she knows she has me over a bottle, and she's milking that for everything it's worth. Wish me luck.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Looking for Recognition

          I hope that Kiley and I are destined to have a long running relationship with each other similar to the one I have with her mother. I was caregiver to her mother when she was a baby and we have remained close all of her life. The fact that she asked me to care for her own baby is testament to the level of trust and affection we have for each other. Building such a relationship, however, takes time, time spent together as well as time for the baby to develop. An infant is not a fully formed individual and, like the ability to walk or talk, the ability to truly connect in a noticeable way with anyone other than its mother takes time and a certain level of development. They're only ready when they're ready. You can talk all day long to a one-year old coaxing it to repeat after you – "Come on say bottle, say booooottle, b-b-boooooottle" but they're not going be able to do it. The speech center in their brain hasn't fully developed yet. But six months later it's like a light turning on, and suddenly, out of the blue, it's "ma", "da", "ba", "more", "no!", "cheerios".

          So you just have to wait, but it's good to remember that building a relationship with an infant is a lot like building a relationship with a man, the first step is to get them to notice you. And by that I mean notice you, not what they think you are. With infants, what they think you are, at least initially, is nothing more than a constant supply of food, warmth, clean diapers, and comfort. With men, at least initially, it’s a possible supply of – well, let’s not go there.  We’re talking babies here, and the point is that babies, by definition, know absolutely nothing about the world, which includes you.

          So when Kiley and I first became acquainted it was a strictly one way deal. I was excited and eager to find out what she was like. I was interested and fascinated by everything she did. I knew that behind those little eyes was a unique individual unlike anyone who ever was, is, or will be again. Their uniqueness is one of the qualities that make babies, and people in general, truly precious things.

          Kiley, on the other hand, didn't give me a second look. I was about as interesting to her as a sink-full of dirty dishes. When the entire universe is brand new, how can any one thing be seen as more important or interesting than another. Or, for that matter, how could I be distinguishable from any of the other people she came into contact with, people who also hugged her and kissed her and held her and spoke baby talk at her. An infant, as the center of its own universe, is, at first, interested only in what effects it directly. The bottle, the binky, the mother, these are things of importance. And they are all related to eating. To an infant everything else in the world from the sink to the sofa to the president of the United States pales in comparison to the overwhelming importance of milk. And there was my advantage. As the "Giver of Milk", the "Holder of the Bottle", it was only a matter of time before she comprehended that I was unique and of more consequence than the car seat or the diaper bag or the guy who bags the groceries.

          And so I bided my time looking for that sign of recognition. Doing all the things that just come natural when you are around a baby, holding her, hugging her, feeding her, cooing and baby talking her, keeping her warm and dry, being the last thing she saw before falling asleep and the first thing she saw when waking up. Doing what comes natural is usually the best strategy for dealing with babies and that includes when forming that special bond. The bonding process is a natural one. Like walking and talking it just seems to happen.

          So the first few days went by with no real sign that she was aware of me as anything special. Then gradually she started watching my face while she drank her bottle. This wasn't really momentous since the position she was in while feeding made it natural for her to look in my direction. There were no apparent signs of recognition in her eyes, she was just staring at me the way my dog sometimes stares at the TV without having any idea what it is or what it means.  Still, it made me feel like she was interested in me, and I'm sure she was storing the shape of my face in her memory. Facial recognition is an important ability in humans and begins early in life. I took it as a beginning.

          This staring at me went on for some time without change, to the point where I started mentioning it to her – "What are you looking at, huh?" "Are you looking at me?"  "Are you eyeballing me, marine?"  "I don't see anyone else here!" I don't see anyone else here!" "Are you looking at me?" This had no effect on her what-so-ever and she just continued staring, so I thought 'two can play at this game', and started staring right back, giving her the "bug eyes". But this grew wearisome fast and I gave it up.

          Then one day it simply happened. Momentous things often "simply" happen. I was feeding her and watching "House Hunters" on TV and she was drinking and staring at me when suddenly, out of the blue, our relationship changed. But "changed" is really too small of a word. "Transformed" is closer to the mark. One moment she's staring at me as usual with that "thousand yard stare" that soldiers over-exposed to intense combat often exhibit, you know, the lights are on but nobody's home, and the next moment everything between us changed forever. In that instant she stopped just staring and her eyes, at last, focused on mine with what seemed like purpose and intent. She stopped sucking and opened her mouth in what looked like surprise though that's probably my imagination, the bottle made that gurgling noise it makes when air sucks back through the nipple. Then, with her eyes still on mine, she gave me the slightest smile, just a quick one. But in that smile and in those eyes were written what her mouth wouldn't be able to speak for another two years. Finally, in that one look, louder than any voice, were the words I had been looking for all this time – "I know you".


Monday, March 3, 2014

Getting the System Down

          Well, that wasn't such a chore, now was it? Well, actually it was but putting a brave face on things is always a good idea – calms the nerves, keeps up morale. But the bottom line is my first week with Kiley is behind me and I can proudly say I came through the ordeal with all of my limbs and at least half of my sanity intact. And believe me, that is an accomplishment. Okay, the limbs are pretty safe for now I grant you, at least until she has teeth. But the sanity?  That's what you have to worry about.

          Not that childcare doesn't take a physical toll, believe me it does. Five ten-hour-days with an infant is like running one of those iron man triathlons. It requires a variety of skills, which tax a variety of muscles. And I'm not kidding. I have muscles that are actually sore! I didn't expect this. My trapezius is killing me and I didn't even know I had a trapezius. I thought that was a guy thing. But no, we all have them. It's that muscle that goes from the neck to the shoulder, I Googled it. How in the world did I hurt that? Sure I pick her up a lot but she only weighs ten pounds. Heck, the flab hanging off the back of my arms weighs more than that. Maybe it's from holding her above my head so she's looking down at me twenty times a day while crooning –"Oh look at those cheeks, look at those cheeks, look at the chubby cheeks on this chiiiiiild!" Whatever the cause, I'm glad I have a heating pad, a good supply of Ben-Gay, and the whole weekend to recover.

          But like I said, it's your sanity you have to worry about. Let's face it, a big part of childcare is mind-numbing drudgery, especially when they're infants. Infants do only four things really well: eat, sleep, poop and cry. Oh sure, occasionally they do something adorable that makes it all worth while – a smile here, a coo there – but these are merely aberrations from the basic pattern of eat, sleep, poop and cry.

          So the main goal of any good sitter is to maximize the positives in this pattern (eat and sleep) and minimize the negatives (poop and cry). Now to do this, you first have to realize that eat, sleep, poop and cry are just a more complicated version of rock, paper, scissors. As we all know, rock breaks scissors, scissors cuts paper, and paper covers rock. It's like a snake eating it’s own tail. Now, if you think about it you'll see that eat, sleep, poop, and cry have similar, though more complex, relationships to each other. Eat leads to poop and sleep, poop leads to cry and sleep, sleep leads to cry and eat, and cry leads to eat and sleep. This is a little complicated, I know. In fact, I made up a little diagram delineating these relationships and taped it to the wall above Kiley's crib so I can keep it all straight. You would be wise to do the same. Now, sometimes these relationships can become slightly altered. Paper never breaks scissors but sometimes cry and sleep can both lead to poop. This is nothing to worry about and the original pattern will soon reassert itself. However, eating should never lead to crying. If it does there is something wrong. I repeat: If eat leads to cry SOMETHING –IS – WRONG! And whatever it is it usually requires poop to cure it. 

          Now the most desirable of these four activities is sleep. Babies are at their best and easiest when they are asleep. While they are sleeping, as long as you are in ear-shot of them you are doing your job as a care-giver, which affords you the opportunity to do all the other things you need and want to do. So you want to gear your activities and that of your baby toward maximizing the time they spend sleeping. Luckily, God has helped us in this endeavor. Babies were designed with a need for lots of sleep. As you can see above, or by referring to your diagram, of the four main things babies do, three of them lead to sleep. And so, if you can manipulate those three activities, eat, poop, and cry, into the most advantageous order you can maximize the amount of time your little loved one spends sleeping. That is good for you and good for her.

          Hang in there I'm almost done. Babies sleep best and longest if they fall asleep right after eating. Falling asleep right after crying leads to shallow, short sleeping. Pooping while sleeping can wake them up. So you want to arrange things in this order – cry, poop, eat, and blessed, gentle sleep. You have to rely on luck for the timing of poop but the other two are pretty easy – they wake up crying (entertain them a little bit); if you're lucky they'll poop right away (entertain them again); feed them (entertain them a little more); and once again they're off to Hushabye Mountain and the pattern starts all over again. Ta-Da!

          And there you have my foolproof system for baby management. Easy, right? Am I making any sense here? Of course not! Like I said in the beginning, it's your sanity you have to worry about. After just the first week I've already lost half of mine. I'm making up diagrams about poop for God's sake! Next I'll be taking advice about mothers-milk versus formula from my neighbors dog or something. Am I going to make it? I don't know. But there's one hopeful sign. Kiley has been gone for less than two days and I find myself thinking about her all the time. What is she doing?  Is she eating good? Is she sleeping good? Is that rash clearing up? Does she miss me?          

Does she love me?

I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck.