Monday, September 24, 2012

The 5 am Solution

We got Walt to bed pretty easily around 8 pm tonight.  Now it's 9:15 and he just woke up crying.  This does not bode well at all.

Last night he went to bed easy, woke up crying at 11 or so and fussed for awhile, then back to sleep and awake again at 2 am.  He was completely inconsolable from about 2 am to 5 am.  What changed at 5 am, you might ask?

5 am is when I gave up.  I went into his room, picked him up and cuddled him close.  He stopped crying immediately.  I put him back down in his crib.  He started to cry but calmed down when I kept a hand on his back.  When I removed my hand and lay down on the bed next to his crib, he started crying again, and crawled to the side of the crib that adjoins the bed, stuck his hand through the slats and patted me firmly on the shoulder, still crying. 

I got up again and picked him up, holding him close while climbing back into bed. We don't usually sleep in bed with Walter.  When he was a little baby, we worried about our big, heavy sleeping selves rolling onto him. As he got bigger and more able to fight us off, he didn't seem to like being in bed with us very much ... he wanted his own space.

This morning was different.  As we settled in he immediately relaxed and draped himself with great dramatic flourish across my chest, heaving a relieved and happy sigh. Every minute or so he'd pop his little head up, make sure I was still there, and give me a big smile. (I tried not to encourage this, but it was pretty cute.) As he relaxed even more he settled into a comfy spot with his arms around me and his head on my shoulder, and as he truly fell asleep he rolled gently onto the bed, still close to me but claiming a space of his own, and I wrapped an arm around his legs.

I am hoping he sleeps so much better tonight, hoping the ibuprofen holds and this new course of antibiotic ear drops begins working its magic right away. I do not plan on a repeat of my 5 am solution ... it's just not sustainable.  But I get the appeal of co-sleeping.  When he finally stopped twitching and squirming (sleeping babies aren't all that peaceful, really, or at least mine isn't) and fell into deep, still sleep all I had to do was move my hand gently to his chest and I was instantly reassured by the rise and fall, the sweet baby breaths.   

I didn't sleep.  But it was the best rest I've gotten in weeks. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The 11th Hour, er, Month

Walter is 11 months old today! And what a day it has been.

It started early. Too early. With lots of tears, lots of croup-y whoop-y sobs, and many excellent efforts at comfort given to no avail.  We took Walter into the bathroom and steamed it up real good; I nursed him there and we sat in the dark in the steam for awhile, sweating and breathing deeply.  After some more nursing back in his room, Walt (still reluctant) went back to sleep for another hour or so.

We played a bit and got dressed for a chilly day at the farmer's market. The market was full of good things, especially peppers, which Sean is turning into goulash tonight. Walter enjoyed a HUGE breakfast of Hmong-style veggie egg roll, sweet sesame ball with red bean filling and a little bit of chicken wing. By this time he'd perked up considerably and was starting to really enjoy himself.  The enjoyment continued as we went from the farmer's market to Copps, our grocery store, where we walked in and there was a marching band playing right inside the door, seemingly there to welcome Walter on his birthday (that's how the three of us reacted, anyway.)  It was a homecoming celebration, and the whole store was very festive and free sample-filled.  All three of us got enough food via samples to constitute a lunch, which is always a cheerful thing.  Walter giggled and sang and flirted his way through the store.  On the way home he fell asleep, and even though he woke up when we got him out of the car seat, he went right back to sleep in his crib, grateful for a nap after an exciting morning.

Sean and I put away food, did some dishes that have needed doing for days, and got dinner going in the crock pot (country ribs, sauerkraut, apple and onion cooked to perfect tender goodness.  Ahhhhhhh.) We even got to nap ourselves for 30 minutes before Walt woke up again.  This time he woke up happy, and we nursed and played for a bit before I had to get ready to go officiate at a wedding.  While I was getting dressed I listened to Sean teach Walter "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" which has now joined the ranks of songs that Walter knows, asks for by name, and participates in (he nods emphatically during the "yes, sir, yes, sir" part of the song.)

Shortly after I left for the wedding, Walter and Sean headed out to the Central Wisconsin Children's Museum, where Walter played and played and tried to keep up with/learn how to be a rapscallion from some big kids.

Sean and Walt got home not too long before I did. As I came in the door Sean let me know that Walter was F-U-S-S-Y and very tired and very nap-resistant.  We nursed and I put him back down in his crib, where he wailed so loudly that Hank had to come check in on us.  One of my favorite moments of the day, even right there in the middle of an awful time getting Walt to sleep, was looking down and seeing Hank's nose poking through the crib slats.  The baby must have smelled safe, because Hank felt OK leaving the room and I followed close behind, leaving a still-crying-but-less-frantic Walt, who fell asleep after a quick pat-pat from Daddy about 15 minutes later.

He didn't nap for very long at all, maybe half an hour. He woke up screaming.  Usually when Walter wakes up sad he calms down right away when we pick him up and take him out of his room, but this time he was inconsolable.  Like, too upset to nurse.  That's unheard of for Walter, so we got pretty worried.  I noticed there was pus coming out of his right ear ... lots of it, all down the side of his face. He was also rubbing and tugging that ear in a way I'd hoped never to see again post-tubes.  We walked around with him until he started to calm down a little, then I called the on-call ENT.  After getting up to speed on the story of the past two weeks (started oral antibiotic on Monday before surgery; tubes in a week ago Friday; added aural antibiotic drops after the surgery; finished oral antibiotic on Monday; broke out in hives all over his body on Tuesday; continued antibiotic ear drops and finished those on Wednesday; croup symptoms started on Wednesday; hives stuck around until Friday) the doc decided that prescribing anything else would be too much of a shot in the dark, and asked us to go into urgent care to get Walt's ear pus cultured.  As we got ready to go we realized that the stains from his ears on the crib linens were bloody, which we found out later is normal for infected ear drainage but which alarmed us even further at the time.

Before we left for urgent care we gave Walter some Ibuprofen and he started feeling better right away. By the time we got to the hospital he was giggling and smiling and singing again and no one believed us that he was sick and in terrible pain.  His ears were still full of grossness, though, so they were able to get a culture and we'll hopefully find out more on Monday afternoon.

Walter's good mood continued as we headed home, singing patty cake, black sheep, and row row all the way.  Sean showed me another new development from this afternoon: if you snap your fingers, Walter tries to imitate the movement and snap his fingers, too.  He's pretty close to getting it, actually. We all had delicious dinner and then Walter did quite a bit of walking/running around the kitchen, moving very fast and with great confidence and joy in this incredible new skill.  It's amazing to watch him, and unbelievable how good he's gotten at it in such a short time.

Then Sean poked a small hole in caramel apple for this month's candle-holder.  Before we sang and took pictures for Walt's birthday we made a video of us singing for my Aunt Fran's 50th birthday.  We told Walter what we were going to do and he repeated back a word that was a recognizable approximation of "birthday."  I think that, when his ears are finally free and clear, this boy is going to talk and talk and talk.

After blowing out the candle (no caramel apple for the baby. Only for the nursing mommy) we shifted into bedtime gear: quick scrub down with a wash cloth, nighttime diaper, tooth brushing, lotion, jammies, nursing, lullaby/prayer, bed.

Walter still usually cries when I put him down awake in his crib.  Tonight, though, when I picked him up and kissed his belly on our way to the crib, he giggled and smiled at me. I put him down and he stretch and sighed and smiled some more, snuggling his face into his Easter lamb's arm, and looking right at me in a loving way, even as I started to move toward the door.  It was almost more difficult to leave the room with him smiling like that than it usually is to leave the room when he's crying.

Who knows what the rest of this night will bring ... Sean's already had to go in once for a pat-pat, and the Ibuprofen will wear off around 2 am.  We may be steaming up the bathroom again, too, if his breathing gets croupy.  But right now, at this very moment, all is well.  I'm the happy, proud Mama of a remarkable 11 month old.  What a day, what a month, what an almost-year it's been!
Happy 11 Month Birthday, Walter!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Today is Tubesday

When we got back from our Michigan road trip/vacation, the day after Walter finished a course of antibiotics for an ear infection (his fourth) he started getting sick again.  As we geared up for the fifth ear infection and another round of antibiotics, we started talking tubes.  Our pediatrician was all for it, as was the ENT.  Even when he was ostensibly healthy in the few days he had between infections, Walter's ears did not look good. We scheduled the surgery to happen right away, a week after our appointment with the ENT (today.)

And then ... Walter got sick again. We called the ENT and got another course of antibiotics prescribed, hoping to head the inevitable infection off at the (very small, not very well-draining) pass. We spent four days nervously (and goopily) awaiting today ... and it all went really, really well.

Walt's Easter lamb assisted with surgery
Sure, there were rough spots. Walt had to fast after 2:30 am, which is kind of hard to explain to a 10 month old who loves to nurse upon waking.  Getting him up at 2:15 to nurse actually went really well, and getting him up again at 5:30 to go to the hospital was bad but not too too bad. He listened to his beloved magic lullaby cd from Aunt Audrey and Uncle Curtis and clung to my hand and arm which got us through the ride there.  Curiosity and stranger anxiety kept him occupied for a little while during the pre-op check in, but soon he started getting insistent about breakfast, which was after all right there in front of him.  After an hour or so he started to angrily pinch and claw at the skin on my neck and chest, at which point Sean pried him away and took him on a tour of the pre-surgery area.  We'd arrived at the hospital at 6 and surgery was supposed to start at 7 ... but the ENT was late.  He'd slept in/forgotten/thought it started at 7:30 (kind of depended on which nurse was delivering the news).  It was just 30 minutes but that makes a difference for everybody: hungry hungry Walter and his increasingly desperate parents, the four year old who was scheduled to go into surgery after us and had to wait even longer, the surgical staff who were then running late all day ... no good.

But for us, it was mostly OK.  As we walked down the hall with him to the OR we worried about the handoff at the door ... until the door opened and there was an especially pretty nurse standing there, smiling at Walter and holding out her arms.  He practically leaped.

We were in the family waiting room long enough for me to drink a small decaf coffee and not long enough to finish a sudoku. The ENT came in and told us Walt's ears were full of pus and really inflamed.  Four days of antibiotics, started right when he was first getting sick, and he still got a raging ear infection. The tubes, they were a good idea.  They drained the pus and put the tubes in with no trouble.  The ENT prescribed antibiotic ear drops to keep the tubes from getting clogged up.  4 drops in each ear twice a day ... he's done that twice now and has been incredibly brave and good both times.

Speaking of brave ... Sean and I did great.  The only point where I started to lose my cool was when they told us he would meet us back at the pre-op room and when we got there he hadn't arrived yet.  I knew he was fine, but I wanted him right then and no later.  A nurse came into view wheeling a bed with his things on it ... I completely ignored that nurse's friendly smile and wave and strained to see the nurse coming in after him, the one holding Walter.  The friendly nurse turned out to be one of our neighbors, and once I had Walt in my arms and registered that I was very grateful indeed to know that a kind neighbor had been taking care of Walter.

After nursing and some vitals checks we got to take him home, arriving around 9:30, greeted by a rather worried dog.  We gave him his medicines, nursed some more, and got him (and us) to bed until he woke up at noon, famished again.  We'd been warned about crabbiness, but for most of the day he's been very happy and chatty and active (and hungry.)  He got a little sad around 4 ... we figured his pain killers wore off about then, gave him some Advil, and he perked right back up in time for dinner and a polka or two at the Polish festival.

Our boy loves, loves a good polka.  For the rest of the night, he'd start dancing again randomly, keeping time to a polka beat I can only assume was stuck in his head.  On the way home from the festival I gave him a serious case of the giggles/snorts/hiccups and kept making him laugh until I realized it might make him lose his cabbage roll.  As strange and sometimes difficult as this day was, it was pretty wonderful to spend it together, and pretty wonderful to think of all the laughing, learning and growing he'll do more fully now with fewer ear infections.

Look out, world.  Here comes Walter.  He walks, he sings, he polkas, and his ears are draining.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Village People

So ... it really does take a village to raise a child. For reals.

Today when Sean picked Walter up from day care they demonstrated something new: Walter sings along to "Row, row, row your boat."  Sean practiced it with Walt all the way home and then showed me when I got home, too.  We sang it for Grandma and Grandpa Albright, we sang it for Umma and Baba, we sang it during dinner and while we were playing after dinner and with special gusto right before bed (perhaps as a clever tactic to delay bedtime.)

The day care version:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile
Don't forget to scream (Ahhhhh!)

Walter's version:
Raow raow raow raow
Raow raow raow raow
(whispered) B-oh-ttt
(with delight) Ahhhhhhhhh!!

But most of the time he just says "raow raow," which is our cue to sing the song, while he listens and dances and waits for his favorite part (the scream, of course) to jump in.  Then, as soon as we're done, he says "raow raow" and we sing it again.

We are, as you might imagine, immensely proud and excited about this.

It makes me remember a time, about 5 years ago, when our niece C was little, maybe about Walter's age.  She came home from day care and proudly exclaimed, "Chugga chugga, chugga chugga, choo choo!" Her mom said, "I love day care. They teach her things!"

I love day care.  I love that they sing with him, and teach him verses I don't know, in ways I would never have thought of myself.  I love that they've been practicing walking with him, and when he's tried out a few tentative steps every evening this week I know he's been doing that at day care, too.

There's no question that Sean and I are Walt's primary caregivers.  We are clearly Mom and Dad; we teach him in big and small ways all the time, we make sure he has safe places to explore, interesting experiences, and absolutely no doubt of our love. To use the current favorite political phrase, we totally built that.  But not alone, not by a long shot.  Our village is building Walter.  And our village is doing an excellent job.

Did I mention that our son is walking?
As Walter would say (with delight): Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Dear friends asked us for advice on baby-related issues, and a rather overwhelming flood of advice issued forth from us, like a dam breaking and releasing a torrent of opinions on everything from diaper disposal (we prefer the diaper champ to the diaper genie) to nail clipping (best done while nursing, with safety scissors.) It turns out we have a lot of opinions about babies and baby-having and baby-tending.  How did that happen? Sheesh. 

I think I can narrow it all down to these two:

1. You can never have too many burp rags, wash cloths or other things to wipe up with.
2. The kind of parent you are isn't defined by your worst moment or your best moment. It's cumulative.  There is so much grace in that, so much relief.  Really, that's all you need to know. 

And that part about the burp rags, that's important, too.