Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Remembering Dad

September 6, 2016.  I was at a friends house, having a regular old playdate.  My mom had been texting me about our upcoming visit in Charleston.  Suddenly she requested that I call her, but not while driving as I usually do.  “Oh gosh, what does she want to yell at me for?”

“Your dad died.” That’s it.  3 words.  Words I've sadly heard before, that rocked my world once again, and profoundly.  Words that changed my life.  Heart attack.  What? He was the embodiment of good health.  Ate vegetables, and steamed fish, and exercised every day.  But still the Big Guy Upstairs (as my dad liked to call God) decided that was his time, and called him home.  

Through a whirlwind of travel arrangements and planning and events and memorials, we got together as a family and remembered Dad together.  Then we all went back home and tried to live this new, emptier life.  It's been a year.  A year of grieving, and forgetting to grieve, and then grieving again.  A year of realizing that family is so important, and holding those we love close.  I’ve probably seen my little brother more since that day last September than I had in the years since we both left Wisconsin.  Because that’s what you do.  You cling to those who matter.  

So in all that grieving, there’s been a lot of remembering.  Eulogies are kind of cruel, I’ve decided.  You try to sit down and write a meaningful piece about a person you loved, and deliver it to a crowd of people who also loved him.  And you do this in the midst of a horrible numbness that doesn’t let you breathe, much less think clearly and eloquently.  So today, I’d like to present you with a new eulogy of Jeff Brostowitz, Dad, Papa, Bapa, Coach, friend.  Please share with all who knew him.  

Let’s start with this one.  My dad helped us to be cool.  Maybe not actually, but he taught us to love traveling (by car, of course), and to love learning through experiences.  I have lots of great memories of family vacations.  Waking up at the crack of dawn to some ridiculously chipper song being sung by a characteristically chipper dad.  Seriously, I don’t think he ever slept.  Mornings were his time.  I loved the feeling of being the only one awake in the car, on the road with just the truckers, listening to The Who or some other awesome classic rock tape.  Those are experiences that stuck with me.

Next.  We are a family that does stuff together.  We do life events.  Special occasions.  Concerts, and sporting events and graduations.  I just love knowing that my dad was proud of my brother and me for all we accomplished.  

When I asked my dad to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, he was so touched.  You see, my dad wasn’t my first dad.  He was my Papa, my stepdad, since I was a baby.  There were times in my life that I treated him like a step-parent, withholding love and respect.  But through it all he never thought of me as any less than a daughter.  When my biological dad died when I was in 5th grade, he was there by my side.  There’s a country song by Brad Paisley called The Dad He Didn’t Have To Be.  Go ahead and listen.  Grab your tissues.  That’s my dad.  

I don’t generally like visitors in the hospital after I give birth.  But guess what.  When people matter, they’re there.  And my dad was there after the birth of his first grand daughter.  He loved my little girl, and she loved him.  Clara is the one who combined Grandpa and Papa to create his nickname Bapa.  

Clara wasn’t always a happy baby, so it was pretty hard to get a good photo of her with anyone.  

Usually they looked like this.  What is she wearing?  That is a hunting snowsuit selected just for her by her Bapa.  Clara quickly got used to creatures from the houtdoors being inside, and hopefully developed an early love for camouflage.  Really though, this picture symbolizes the love of nature and the outdoors that my dad imparted upon my brother and me.  He taught me to love the woods, and to hike safely, always with a compass.  Run sensibly, always change out of sweaty clothes so you don’t get a chill.  Hunters don’t catch deer, they shoot them.  Wear orange during hunting season.  Respect nature, and those who were on the land well before we were.  Solid life lessons.

I know my dad was sad when we decided to leave Wisconsin for greener pastures in Virginia.  This was one final outing with his grandbaby before seeing us off at the airport the next day.  Those last few months before we left where just emblematic of the servant heart that my dad had.  He was over all the time while Paul was already in Richmond, helping with yard work and getting my house ready to sell.  Even after we left, there he was emptying out the deep freezer (an awesome Christmas gift from him), and making sure the house was in order while we waited patiently for it to sell.  

And there he was immediately after William Jeffrey was born.  He needed to be one of the first to see that second grandbaby, especially one named after him.  This particular photo shows lovely winter weather in the South.  The following year, however, he trekked out for William’s birthday through one of the biggest blizzards Virginians had ever seen.  

This photo was taken just a few months before he was taken from us.  I am so glad that I was able to make the trip that June with just me and the kids, and to spend some really good quality time just sitting and resting and beeing.  Because that’s probably my favorite memory of my dad.  The quiet.  Sitting at the table, or in the den, or at Grandma B’s.  We would talk about work, and current events, and exercise, or whatever.  But talking wasn’t always necessary.  Quiet was ok.  And that’s the biggest lesson my dad taught me.  Its ok to just be with the people you love, and enjoy them for exactly who they are.  

I miss you Papa. Thank you for being you.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On The Benefits of Hiking

This is a follow up to a piece I wrote almost ten years ago.

A lot of times, I find myself telling people, "I used to be a runner."  But no, that's not true. I'm still a runner. I run. But I've slowed down. Two kids and a husband who works a lot will do that to a person. So I don't run as fast, or as often, but I've found a new way to get active: hiking with my kids.

I joined a group here in Richmond called Hike It Baby. It's a national group that was started just 3 years ago in Seattle, and has grown exponentially! Their mission is just to get parents and kids of all ages outdoors and active. Perfect! I go on about a hike a week with them, and am now a Hike Lead, training to be a Branch Lead. I've met some really neat people through my HIB group, and have explored trails that I had no idea existed. My favorite so far is Larus Park, a little-known trail in Chesterfield. Some of our hikes are stroller friendly, while others require me to tote both of my children in baby carriers. Still other hikes encourage the little kids to lead, mean we don't cover many miles, but we make lots of discoveries!

So, what does this have to do with the way I became a runner? A simple 30 day challenge, that's what. When I started running (I called it jogging back then), I set out to cover 25 miles over the course of 30 days, as a competition with myself and with my friend Eric. When I finished I bought myself a really cool light up frisbee. And I felt amazing with myself for doing it. So I did it again the next month. And the next. Until I didn't need to set mileage goals anymore, because j was signing up to run actual races! Starting with that 25 mile challenge, I became a runner.

And now, ten years, two kids, and lots of miles later, I'm embarking on a different sort of challenge. This one is called the Hike it Baby 30, and it's a fundraiser for my totally awesome hiking group. The goal is to cover 30 miles in 30 days. Those miles need to be outdoors, and with your kids. Don't have kids of your own? Borrow some! Take your nieces and nephews, or kids you nanny, or your grandkids! Just get kids outside and active, and help bring up a generation of young people who are motivated to stay healthy and protect our planet. Sign up for HIB 30!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

On Homeschooling

Our work area
Yes.  I plan on homeschooling my children.  I've talked about this with a few people, but not many.  I"m not entirely sure why not, but probably because homeschooling tends to be seen as a somewhat radical decision.  Many people (myself included, before I learned more and met actual homeschoolers) envision someone like Michelle Duggar, with a long skirt and long hair, teaching her 20 children around an enormous table.  Or maybe they know someone who was homeschooled that is a little socially awkward.  Or a million other stereotypes that may or may not be true of some homeschooling families.  But the reality is that many of those same stereotypes can hold true for traditionally schooled families, as well.  There are ultra-conservative Christians in public school.  There are crazy Liberals in public school.  There are kids who go through 12 years of public school and are still pretty socially awkward (um, hi!).  There are smart kids and not so smart kids in public school.  And there are all of those same types of kids in homeschooling.  So yeah.  I know what I'm doing.
Art: painting with pom poms
Science: What happens when you add lots of water to the sand box?
Why am I doing it?  Well, for right now, my reasoning for not sending Clara to preschool of any sort is simple: I am a trained, certified teacher.  It seems really silly for me to pay a stranger to teach my child, when I want to do it myself, and am extremely capable of doing it myself.  As she gets older, I may re-evaluate, but I strongly feel that I will not be sending my kids to kindergarten, or first grade, etc.  The nature of Paul's work schedule is such that if the kids were in traditional school, he would miss up to two entire days with them, since his weekends often fall on Monday and Tuesday.  Plus, homeschooling allows us to stay open to moving about the country if Paul is offered various opportunities with his company.  But mostly, I'm homeschooling because I've been in the school system.  I like to think I was a pretty good teacher.  I tried my hardest to reach every kid.  But I couldn't.  My curriculum was dictated for me, my textbooks were chosen by a committee, and the standards were laid out before me, with the expectation that every child would attain the same level by the end of the year.  And for some children, that curriculum, those textbooks, those standards were just fine.  Some children did great during the school day, in the school building, with lots of kids their age.  But many didn't.  For whatever reason, the system failed some kids.  I just don't want to take that chance with my own children.
Math: decorating our Number One poster

You know who did the best in my classes over the years?  The kids who had private tutoring of some sort.  I had an open invitation for students to come to me after school, before school, and at lunch to work one on one.  The kids who did that learned more.  Some students had tutors that their parents paid for.  They learned more.  Some students had parents who spent tons of time working with them in productive ways.  They learned the most.  But all of that tutoring took place outside of the regular school day, meaning that those kids had an even longer time they were required to sit still and pay attention.  What if I could give my kids PURELY one on one (or maybe one on two) instruction?  We could get through so much more academics in less time, leaving much of our day for enrichment, and sports, and socializing with other kids!

Homeschooling will give me the opportunity to work according to my kids' needs.  Slow, fast, different learning styles, morning, evening, the sky's the limit!  They do not have to fit into anyone else's box.  And I don't want them to.
Phy Ed: Climbing rocks on a hike with Hike It Baby
So, discuss with me.  Share your questions, commentary, critique, and concerns with me here, or on facebook or twitter.  If you are currently homeschooling, or thinking about it, share that!  I'm really excited about beginning this journey.  I've missed teaching in the year since I quit my job, and I'm so looking forward to being a PK-12 teacher for each of my own kids.
Pre-Writing: Practicing fine motor skills with play-dough

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Birth Story of William Jeffrey Madsen

After a less than idea birth experience with my daughter, I knew I wanted more for my son.  Clara’s birth wasn't necessarily traumatic, but it was full of interventions I didn't want, and didn't exactly need.  I ended up with PPD, and had a very difficult time enjoying my maternity leave, as I was constantly anxious and had trouble recovering. 

Soon after I got pregnant with Baby #2, I began to research birth centers and midwives in the Milwaukee area.  There weren't many options.  I knew I did not want to birth at the same hospital that I did before, and to move meant finding a new OB (there were no in-hospital midwives in my area), or forgoing the hospital altogether in favor of a birth center, which didn’t really make me comfortable. 

It turns out this search wasn't even necessary, because right after my 20 week ultrasound (it’s a boy!), our family moved across the country for Paul’s dream job in Richmond.  I did tons and tons of research on hospitals in the area, with the help of a data-oriented friend.  I discovered two hospitals with very low c-section rates (an indicator of a hospital that is evidence based and natural birth friendly).  Reviews from the 2 friends I had in the area told me to go to one, my gut told me to go to the other.  As soon as I arrived in RVA, I toured both hospitals and knew immediately that I needed to be at VCU (Medical College of Virginia) with their midwife practice. 

At my first meeting with one of the midwives, Leslie, I cried.  I was so relieved that she took the time to listen to me, to all my fears and anxieties about birth.  She told me that if I was a patient of the midwives, I would be committing myself to an un-medicated childbirth, barring any serious complications.  She gave me some great books to read, and assured me that I would have a chance to fully discuss my birth plan as the time grew closer.  The part that really assured me was when it came time to measure my belly and listen for the heart rate, Leslie asked permission to touch me.  That little step told me so much about the care I was to receive. 

By the time I was 36 weeks pregnant, I was totally ready to give birth.  I was confident, I was knowledgeable, and I was huge.  I was so ready to meet this baby.  At a previous appointment, Midwife Amber told me it was time to stop reading books about the birth process and technical details, and just relax.  Got it.  I received an amazing mandala coloring book for Christmas along with a set of sharpies, so I spent any free time I had coloring in fine details with colors that relaxed my mind and body. 

I should add at this point that I was part of VCU’s volunteer doula program.  I had two student nurses who were working toward their doula certification who would be on call to attend my birth.  Stephenia and Tammie were so kind and gentle and caring, and were truly excited to walk with me in childbirth.  As my story digs deeper into the actual labor, I’ll include their voices, which weren’t clouded by the hormones of birth. 

Early Monday morning, January 12, I was awoken by some discomfort in my back and belly.  I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks now, but when these kept me awake and began coming more frequently, I decided to get out of bed and start timing them.  I also figured this would be a good time to write out a list of instructions for my mother in law, who would be taking care of Clara when we went to the hospital.  Since I was only 37 weeks pregnant, I didn’t have any of this ready.  And of course I didn’t have a bag packed.  Or a crib set up.  Or anything, really, since we had just moved into our house, Paul had been working crazy hours, and I was too grossly pregnant to unpack much on my own. 

Around 4 or 5am I woke Paul up to tell him I was most likely in labor.  He asked if he could go back to sleep until I was sure.  I knew that a well-rested husband would be key in helping me deal with active labor, so of course I agreed.  I was texting with my two besties, Annette and Heather, this whole time, so I had all the moral support I needed.  By the time Clara woke up, I was pretty sure this was real labor, so I called the midwife on-call at the hospital.  Brenda told me that it could be prodromal labor, since I was a little early, and that if I hadn’t progressed by evening I should have a glass of wine and go to bed.  I was ecstatic about that!  However, it wasn’t to be.  Paul had gone in to work to wrap a few things up, and in that 2 hours, labor really got moving.  Clara was mostly left to her own devices (playdough) while I alternated coloring and leaning on the birth ball into stronger but still manageable contractions.  I texted Paul to let him know that he shouldn’t dawdle, and also that he should bring lunch. 

We were supposed to attend our nephew Bruce’s 3rd birthday that day.  It ended up that Clara got to attend, while Paul and I headed to the hospital to deliver her baby brother!  By the time we took her to my sister-in-law’s house, I was waddling quite a bit more than usual, baby was waaaay down in my belly, and my MIL seemed terrified that I would give birth right there.  I was just focused on not going to the hospital too early like the last time!  It was really hard to say goodbye to my baby girl, but she didn’t care one lick!  She was off playing with her cousin.

So, 4pm, I managed to pose for a photo at the entrance to Labor and Delivery.  My contractions slowed down a bit during paperwork, but I expected that.  Brenda was still there, and she assured me that they would start up again soon.  My doulas were finishing up a class, and would be there as soon as they could.  When Brenda finally checked my cervix (after waiting until I was ready), I was at 4 or 5 cm, definitely in active labor.  I was told I couldn’t get in the tub until 6 cm, but that I was welcome to use the shower.  Right now, the most uncomfortable part of the experience was the IV in my hand.  After about an hour I begged for it to be taken out, because it was keeping me from relaxing.  I sent Paul to get some food for himself while I sat on the birth ball in the shower, blissfully alone.  I managed to direct the hot water just on my lower back, while I stuck the upper half of me out of the shower to text with Annette and Heather some more. 

We entered the dimly lit room, which smelled like a blend of essential oils. The room smelled like an absolute spa. Paul was sitting by the bedside as Jessica was finishing in the warm shower. At this point, she was 5 centimeters along, and the contractions were increasing in strength and frequency. Jessica emerged from the shower and walked over to greet us. She got a contraction as she leaned over the counter, and Paul dutifully walked over to provide her with counter pressure on her hips and encouraging words like “Breathe”, “Relax”, and “Match my voice.”  This was my first time watching them interact, and together they, as a team, help bring this baby in the world. I broke into a wide smile as I saw this man love his wife and engage in the labor.

At one point, the nurse joined me in the shower with the portable fetal monitor.  Everything sounded good, and it seemed to be time to exit the shower for another cervical check.  Brenda had left, and Midwife Kathryn had taken over.  I heard her starting the water in the tub, which I knew was a good sign.  My doulas had also arrived and we were chatting through contractions, which were getting much stronger and closer together.  I was getting really tired, and wanted to lay down for awhile.  The nurse needed to do an official 2 minute fetal monitoring before I got in the tub, so laying down wasn’t a terrible idea.  My favorite memory of this really hazy time is lying in bed on my side, with Tammie rubbing my legs with heavenly smelling lotion, Stephenia putting pressure on my back with a hot rice pack, and Paul pressing my hips with his big strong hands.  Seriously, everyone should have 3 birth assistants.  It was amazing. 

Tammie and I (Stephenia, doulas) arrived at the hospital around 5:45 pm just an hour or two after Jessica had. When we walked into the room I remember how relaxed and peaceful it felt with the smells of essential oils, bible verses sitting on the side table with drinks out for Jessica, the birthing ball sitting out and the room nice and orderly.  Jessica seemed at peace and ready to have her baby.

After the 20 minute monitoring, they did another check, and I was deemed ready to get in the tub.  I had mixed feelings about the labor tub.  At this point, it was really difficult to change positions.  So the act of walking to the tub and climbing in was quite uncomfortable.  But once I was in the hot water and buoyancy felt so good.  I was really able to relax between contractions.  BUT, it was difficult to get in a comfortable position on my knees during contractions, which were getting MUCH more intense.  I sent Paul off again to get a soda, since we all figured I would be in the tub for awhile.  Nope.  After a few extremely intense contractions, during which Stephania and Kathryn were urging me to lower the pitch of my moans to make them more productive, and I was resisting and screaming instead, I felt a huge gush of water, and my contractions instantly went from really uncomfortable to OH MY GOSH THE PAIN IT HURTS SO BAD!! I immediately started to unravel.  It was during transition with Clara that I ended up getting an epidural because I just couldn’t progress, so I was sure this phase was going to last forever.  I started to get really discouraged, but my midwife and doulas just kept urging me on and telling me how wonderfully I was doing.  Paul came back during all this and was shocked, since he wasn’t gone for long and I had completely changed demeanors. 

One of the most beautiful things of the whole birth was seeing Jessica and her husband’s connection throughout labor. Paul was an amazing support to Jessica as he moaned with her during contractions and encouraged her. He would often say during a contraction “match the sound of my voice.”

Kathryn told me it was time to get out of the tub, since the baby would be coming soon.  I didn’t really believe her, and didn’t want to get out of the tub, but she told me I wasn’t allowed to have the baby in the tub.  Every single movement hurt.  I tried using a birthing stool, and couldn’t relax or get enough leverage to push.  All I really wanted to do was lie down, but in my mind lying in med was completely contradictory to natural birth.  But I did it anyway because I couldn’t support my own weight.  Once in bed, I still couldn’t push effectively, because everyone wanted me to curl up and grab my knees, and I just couldn’t.  I felt completely unable to do anything except scream with the pain.  I kept saying that I couldn’t do it, and crying. 

In between pushing, I took a moment to tell her “You are so close Jessica. He’s almost here. You’re going to have a baby boy in your arms very soon at the end of this. You have loved him for 9 months, and he is ready to meet you”

One nurse that was in there was really encouraging.  I can’t remember what she said, but I think she was giving me specific directions on how to push, and it helped. 

Jessica screamed as she bore down. Sharon, the night nurse, said to Jessica “Take that pain, Jessica. Pull it from inside of you and push through it. I know it’s hard, but I also know that you can do it.”  I could see the head of the baby turtling out, but then it would go back in. She rested between each push, completely releasing the tension in her muscles. I wiped her hot and sweaty face and chest with a cold towel. Paul held her hand, stroked her, and told her he loved her. Steph whispered in her ear “God is with you Jessica”. Gentle coaching and soothing words turned into commands. “Go! Push! Yes you can!”  

Paul, or I, or someone, suggested using the stirrups on the bed to keep my legs up, since I couldn’t hold them myself.  Again, this seemed to go against my “natural” plan.  Looking back, it’s kind of funny, because even the nurses weren’t totally sure how to get the stirrups up, since they never use them!  But it was a good move, because I could just leave my legs up instead of trying to curl up and lay back down every push. 

I clearly remember Jessica saying she can’t do this and looking afraid. Her husband told her she had made it thus far and was doing an amazing job and that she could do it. I told Jessica to look me in the eyes then I said “don’t be afraid Jessica, God is with you, you can do this.” All of us encouraged her to channel all her energy into pushing the baby out. It was amazing to see the moment on Jessica’s face when she was sure she could do this and was determined to push baby out. Two pushes later babies head was out and then another push later and William was on Jessica’s chest. It was a beautiful sight to see the three of them bonding and to see Jessica’s excitement that she did it! She delivered little William naturally and the way she had dreamt her birth should be like.

I’m not totally sure what happened, but after a bit of really ineffective pushing, and me fearing that I just wouldn’t be able to have this baby, I decided that to get the pain to go away, I needed to push this baby out!  It was kind of the way I get motivation towards the end of a really hard run, where I just can’t do it anymore, but I say, “You can do it, Madsen.  Just keep going.”  And I did.  I won’t go into too many details of this next part, but the next thing I knew, I had a squirmy, wet baby on my chest, and he was covered in vernix, and just simply beautiful and perfect.  He started squeaking and making little noises.  Not screaming, just little sounds that seemed to say, “Hi mama!”  All kinds of stuff was happening at the end of the table, and I was surprised that the pain hadn’t gone away yet, but I had my baby boy.  We had our beautiful Magic Time, where he crawled to my breast and started feeding like he had been doing it his whole life.  Later, the nurse told me they wish they had videotaped that, because it was a great example of what the Magic Hour should look like. 

Finally, with one strong, silent push and all the determination in her eye, Jessica pushed William into the world. Catherine guided him out and immediately laid him on Jessica’s chest. Jessica held her baby and kept him warm as she and Paul greeted him into the world. Catherine waited until the cord has stopped pulsing to cut it. William bonded with his mother as he found his way to her breasts. Jessica and Paul rejoiced in their newborn son and their love. Paul told Jessica, “I knew you could do it, there’s nothing you can’t do that you put your mind to.” They announced his name as William Jeffrey Madsen, and laughed over what the correct spelling of “Jeffrey” was. I was so honored to witness that beautiful moment of love in this family’s life. I hope that Jessica felt empowered and strong that day, and I wish the Madsen family and their new addition all the best!

After a little bit, little William started to scream, peed on me, and started turning blue.  Super scary!  They rushed him over to the incubator and took all his vitals, and he was fine.  We think he probably just got too smooshed into my breast while he was eating and couldn’t breathe.  After that I made sure his nose was always clear during nursing! 

After William got weighed and measured (7lb 4oz), and I got cleaned up a little bit, we got to spend another 2 hours just relaxing in bed and enjoying our new little family.  Paul got some skin to skin time, I got a sandwich, and then William got lots more milk!  We then got wheeled to our postpartum room, where we were delighted to discover a REAL extra bed for Paul to sleep on, instead of just a recliner or futon. 

Here’s what I loved about our postpartum time at VCU:
  • ·        The nurses were extremely attentive.  A nurse accompanied me to the bathroom every single time for about 12 hours, because I was light headed.  I felt very cared for.
  • ·         William slept like a champ in his bassinet the first night!  It was so refreshing to actually be able to sleep after giving birth, which didn't happen the last time.  I credit the lack of medication in his system. 
  • ·         My physical recovery was very quick.  I only had a 1st degree tear, and felt ready to be up and active by the next day. 
  • ·         Food was actually pretty good!
  • ·         William never left my room for any reason.  All tests were done right in the room.  He was bathed when I was ready, not when someone else told me it was time. 
  • ·         I got great breastfeeding support when I needed it, from nurses, midwife, and Lactation consultant. 
  • ·         I didn't get yelled at when, after not sleeping well on Night #2, I brought William into my bed and we both got to sleep.  I was so used to the militant anti-cosleeping movement in Milwaukee, that it was refreshing when I could parent the way I knew was best.
  • ·         No visitors.  I know some people love having visitors in the hospital, but I do not.  Too much pressure.  I loved that it was just quiet alone time for Paul, William and me. 

To wrap up, say what you will about natural birth being unnecessary in this day and age, or how much you loved your epidural.  I am so so happy that I was able to achieve an un-medicated childbirth in a peaceful, gentle environment.  William Jeffrey is an extremely laid back baby who generally sleeps very well and is usually happy and smiling.  My physical recovery was very quick, and my emotional recover as well.  Thank you, midwives, doulas, and nursing staff of VCU/Medical College of Virginia! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our Sleep Journey: Part Two

In my previous post, I detailed how much infant sleep sucks. And continues to suck as that infant becomes a toddler.  I should add here that there's actually a name for the sleep "training" method that I chose to use: Wait it Out. Basically, I acknowledge that infants are designed to wake frequently, be attended to and sleep near their parents, and even breastfeed beyond infancy. So basically, my kid who doesn't sleep is normal. Your magical sleeping unicorn baby, however wonderful, is not.

Now back to the journey.

Turning point: We decided to start trying for Baby #2 when CG was about 17 or 18 months old.  The urgency to get her in her own room began, because I knew that a) I would be needing more sleep, being pregnant and all, and b) there’s no way I was sharing my bedroom with a toddler AND a newborn.  Between the two they’d be up all night!  

So we started talking up the crib.  We had been playing in her bedroom all along, and I got really soft sheets and a nice blanket for the bed.  I occasionally placed her in the crib for a few minutes to play, and immediately removed her.  I kept saying that soon, I would start having her sleep there.  

I did start with naps, because she was just fighting me and refusing naps in the master bedroom  when she knew that Daddy was in the room (3rd shift, sleeping during the day).  One day I had just had it with the rocking and nursing and playing routine, that I said "Forget it! You're going in your crib!" That went great.  Seriously. Curled herself up and went to sleep, like that was what she was waiting for all along.

Once summer started and I became a stay at home mom, I really got the ball rolling.  Every night, she would start the night in her crib, and at first waking she would sleep with me in the big bed, or in her small crib in my room.  Hubby was still on 3rd shift, so I had the bed to myself anyway.  It was tough getting a routine down, because once I became pregnant, my milk started to try up, and nursing really hurt.  So there was a lot of fighting, and resisting.  I would nurse, then lay her down, then rub her back, then try and leave the room.  She would cry for 2 minutes, I would go back and start over.  It didn't really help that there was no room for a rocking chair in the nursery, so I was sitting with her on the floor.  Sometimes the bedtime routine would go on for an hour before she finally fell asleep, either in my arms, or with me rubbing her back.  Plus, sleeping in bed with me was all fine and dandy when Paul was working, but on the weekends she still expected it, and there was just not enough room in our queen bed for the three of us.

Then a couple of things happened: First, the doctor told us that Clara had seasonal allergies, and to start her on a daily dose of Children’s Zyrtec.  Next, CG discovered the basket of old bottles in her closet and decided she really liked them.  So we started offering a bottle of milk (cows, since my freezer stash was long gone) at bedtime. Thirdly, and most importantly, she started becoming more interested in TV, specifically Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  Did you know that there is an entire episode of this wonderful show dedicated to morning and nighttime routines?!  I remember the date of the episode vividly, because until very recently it was saved on the DVR.  We watched that episode every night after bath, and while enjoying a bottle of non-momma milk.  The first time we did that, she went to bed so easily and slept so soundly that I panicked at 4am thinking that something was wrong with the monitor!!  The next day I went out and bought a proper video monitor to avoid a repeat of that situation.  

There were still occasional wake ups in the middle of the night.  But those were handled quickly with a cuddle, a nurse, some back rubbing, or occasionally a bottle refill (yup, putting baby to bed with a bottle is also on that list of no-nos from the beginning).  But more often than not, the only thing interrupting my sleep was me.  CG would whimper or whine in her sleep, and I would stare at the monitor trying to decide if she needed me or not.  By the time I decided she was going to stay asleep, I was wide awake.  I got a lot of reading done during that time.  

There have been some setbacks.  Vacation was a big one.  Now that she was sleeping in her own dark, quiet room and her own big crib with a nice mattress, it was extremely hard to convince her to sleep in a pack n play with a cardboard mattress, right next to mommy and daddy.  She still fell asleep well at bedtime, but woke super frequently.  She didn't want to go back in the crib, but she also tossed and turned if I brought her to the big bed.  She required LOTS of milk refills, and I could just sense the cavities growing (nope, wouldn't accept water in the bottle, and has really started to refuse nursing).  And naps.  Don’t even talk to me about naps.  Pretty much an hour or more of playtime in the crib before she would go down, and if I came into the room and tried to nap myself, there’s no way she was sleeping.   Plus she developed this annoying habit of pooping during that playtime, but doesn't have the words yet to inform me of that fact.  So I had to listen to the monitor and decide if it was time for me to intervene, or if she would play herself to sleep.  

But now we’re back from vacation.  First night back, she was asleep as soon as her head hit the mattress, and stayed that way until 7:45am.  Then, she played in her crib for awhile before LAYING DOWN AND GOING BACK TO SLEEP!  I think I can now safely say that I have a toddler who loves sleep.  

See you at 4am when I eat my words.