Battle of the Binky – Part II: LSAT Day

Elmer Fudd School of Law (where you go with a lousy LSAT)

The day of the Law School Admission Test looms before you like a day of battle. The outcome may have vast repercussions on your life. You hope to be victorious. You hope to be creating options for your future. You don’t want to wind up at some two-bit Elmer Fudd School of Law in the middle of Nebraska. So you study. You prepare. You take practice exams. The structure of a contrapositive floats before your eyes in those dreamy moments before sleep. You study more. Slog through more practice sections. And then you’re ready. It’s the night before Test Day, and you are confident.
And then your four-month-old baby boy fusses and cries.

I tried to block out Sam’s cries as best as I could. My husband tried to soothe and quiet him and coax him to sleep. Sam finally fell asleep at 10 o’clock; I fell asleep several minutes later. I had to be at the testing center by 8 AM, so that meant waking early enough to be up and dressed, eaten breakfast, nursed Sam, and a 40 minute drive. Even going to sleep at 10, it would still have been fine. Not an ideal amount of sleep, but I certainly could have managed.

But I woke up again at 3 in the morning. I think Sam was making those cute little baby snuffling sleepy sounds that babies make. They used to wake me up instantly during those first few months. Sam fell right back to sleep, but now I was awake. Wide awake. I believe with conviction that one of the hardest things you can do is force yourself to sleep. I’ve been an insomnia sufferer for years. It got much better after buying a luxurious new mattress about five years ago, but it still strikes occasionally. Lying there in the dark, my thoughts were so sharply on the test that there was no way I was going to be able to fall back asleep. As I lied there awake and miserable, the more distressed I became. The more distressed I became, the more difficult it was to sleep. As the red numbers kept changing on the clock, the more distressed I became. It was a vicious circle. I awoke at 3 AM. I never was able to get back to sleep.

Jack drove me to the testing site. I cried most of the way. I cried with exhaustion. I cried with despair. I cried with defeat. And I hadn’t even taken the test yet. They walked in with me. I held Sam tightly and hugged him. Hug a baby for luck, I told myself. Then I took the test. I felt frazzled and unfocused the whole time. I made a lot of guesses, some of them random. Like a few times the words seemed to be hazy on the page; those were random guesses. I was so tremendously fatigued. I didn’t even manage to fill in all of the circles. On the LSAT, you are not penalized for wrong answers; you only rack up points with correct answers. It is always in your best interest to fill in all the remaining circles even if you have no time to read the questions.

When I saw Jack drive up, I climbed into the front seat quietly. He asked how it went. I said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Let me make clear, I was not using the tone of voice that says that I really do want to talk about it. I didn’t say another word the whole drive. I think I might have cried quietly. At home I went into our bedroom, climbed into bed, and pulled the blankets way up.

Sam started fussing again. I didn’t care. Jack could take care of him. I certainly didn’t harbor one ounce of negative emotion towards the baby at all; I just didn’t have any strength, physical or emotional, to take care of him at that point. So, Jack could take care of him. Except that Sam wouldn’t calm down. Perhaps he could sense the miasma of depression and failure in the air. Or maybe he just had gas. Either way, Jack knew that I needed to be left alone, I needed to rest, and that I did not need to be hearing Sam crying. The usual, feeding, burping, rocking, etc. wasn’t working. So desperate Jack—who hates pacifiers(see Battle of the Binky Part I)—gave Sam a pacifier. The effect was instantaneous; Sam calmed down, his face relaxed, and he fell asleep – with the pacifier. Just a one-time occurrence? Or was this the beginning of the slippery slope of pacifier dependence?

(I was awakened when Sam started stirring from his nap. I picked him up, and he gave me one of his sweet smiles. And I smiled. My boy could make me smile on one of the worst days of my life. That was pretty incredible. I was in a funk for days, but it was so much lighter than it would have been if it had not been for playing and laughing with Sam.)

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Biting and Breastfeeding? Help!

Can anyone give me any tips on how to stop 10-month-old Sam from biting during breastfeeding?  He has four sharp teeth like tiny daggers.  Two on the top, two on the bottom.   When the first one poked through, we were so surprised and thrilled!  This fresh, new, white, hard point sticking out!  Without telling them why, I had my momanddad- in-law wash their hands, and then told them to feel inside his mouth.  Nobody shares your excitement about your baby like the grandparents do.  So it felt like a celebration when that inaugural tooth arrived.  And it explained all the unusual crying of the previous night.

That was a few months ago.  It has happened several times in the past week or so that he bites me during nursing.  It hurts!

I have been using a firm, serious tone of voice to say “No Biting.”  Sometimes I say it twice or try to unlatch him.  I’m opposed to any sort of slapping method of getting him to stop.  Breastfeeding is our special snuggly time; I don’t want to make it unpleasant for Sam by yelling or hitting him.   But I also won’t allow myself to be hurt and bitten like some sort of self-sacrificing martyr.

I’m guessing that the firm voice and trying to unlatch him are the best methods, but if anyone out there has any other advice, please feel free to share!  And he is only going to get more and more teeth.  Is this the beginning of the end of my breastfeeding?  I was hoping to go longer.


Empty Threats don’t belong in Fun Playgrounds!

Sam and I went to the playground today, the first day of spring.  It was a lovely breezy day.  He was laughing as I pushed him in a baby swing.  We had the playground completely to ourselves (where are all the other parents and kids when it’s so nice outside?)  Then another mom showed up with her kids. Playgrounds are often divided into sections for little kids and bigger kids. I saw her younger boy go running toward the set of play equipment where Sam and I were playing. The mom yelled at him to follow them to the other end. Little boy didn’t want to play on the other half. Other mom yelled at him, “We’re going to go home if you don’t obey!”

I realize I’m new at the whole mothering job, but I didn’t believe for one second that this woman had packed up her two kids plus a baby in a stroller, driven to the park, just to turn around and go back home. I’ll file this in the Empty Threats file. I could also name this the Useless Threats file. And the terrible misbehavior that prompted the Empty Threat? The little boy wanted to play in a different part of the playground than his brother. Oh no! That definitely deserved a Useless Threat! (I can imagine the wollop that Older Brother would have given Younger Brother if the mom had indeed followed through on her threat to take them all home right then.)

And I hear parents threatening their kids with punishment all the time. One might hope that on a springy and fun morning at a playground, there could be an escape from the constant threats of punishment. It just seems so dreary to live that way, for the kid and for the parent. I’m definitely treading into some crunchymunchy Alfie Kohn parenting philosophy here. I really must get back to reading Kohn’s book, if I could just get a spare few minutes, whenever that may be. Speaking of spare time, I can hear Sam clearly now, not napping. Actually, I would’ve been surprised if he was asleep since he napped once today already, and he usually only takes one nap a day. He just seemed so sleepy as I nursed him that I thought I’d give him a chance to nap if he wanted. God knows I would happily take a nap this afternoon!


Let my Precious Baby Play on the Floor? Ew!!!

We leave for play group in about 80 minutes. I love going to Sam’s play group. Miracle of miracles, a bunch of women who were all strangers with nothing in common but delivery dates, and yet we all get along. This group helped keep me sane during those first few months of motherhood feeling isolated, at home alone tied to the glider and nursing nearly non-stop all day. At the time, Sam wouldn’t nap unless he was in my arms, so I was glued to the chair even during his naps. During play group, we were still stuck in chairs holding our nursing and napping babies, but we had company and conversation, which like I said, was vital in keeping me sane.

Now during play group the moms place babies on the floor to play. Most of the babies are now crawling around, not the two youngest yet – my Sam and a baby girl. They sit on the floor or crawl around, playing with toys and squealing and babbling happily. Sometimes at a play date I have put him down on a blanket. But at last week’s play group, I kept him on the couch with me nearly the entire time.

I think floors are icky. They are covered with whatever you have tracked in on the bottom of your shoes. That means, if you stop at an interstate rest stop and use the bathroom, you could be standing in the same spot where a trucker had a $12 hooker the night before. An unlikely example I suppose, but my point is that the floor is grimy, and then you track that around. Last weekend we took Sam to see the baby goats at a dairy. Baby goats are cute, but their poop could have e coli in it, which then gets tracked around on your shoes. Or even just filth like oil residue from parking lots. So I don’t understand how people let their babies crawl around on floors. Even worse is when I see babies pick up random items off the floor and put them in their mouths. There is a baby at church who does this; I inwardly cringe every time. I’m also bothered by the sharing of drool when the babies pass toys around. Such great potential for getting sick.

I don’t think of myself as a germaphobe. I know enough science to understand how viruses and bacteria are spread. Thanks to my biologist husband, I understand that there are microorganisms surrounding us. Some can cause illness; many do not. It does not help when parents bring their children near my son, and they say “Don’t worry, she’s not sick.” Do they not understand that their daughter may not be sick but can easily transfer germs from another kid to Sam? Do they further not understand that their daughter may very well be sick but the symptoms won’t become obvious for another three hours? But that harmless sneeze was already filled with the virus. But I’m not a germaphobe because my awareness does not interfere with anything I do. I just wash my hands afterwards.

I am a hand washer. Soap is our friend – and not that antibacterial soap either – that stuff just breeds stronger and more resistant bacteria. In my home, there is no such thing as a 5-second rule. Once it falls on the floor, it ceases to be food; it is now trash. We try to always kick off our shoes when we come home, but we can’t assume that others do the same in their own homes. When Sam plays on the floor at home, it is on blankets that I have spread out. I can do this because, remember, he doesn’t crawl yet. We have plans to get our carpets cleaned soon so that I feel comfortable letting Sam crawl around and play freely at home.

But last week, I started feeling really bad that Sam was only sitting and watching the other babies playing (on the floor of a dog-owning mom who does not worry about things like germs). Therefore, today, I will put aside my disgust for Sam’s sake, and let Sam play on the floor with the other babies, sharing lint covered and drooly toys. I hope he has a great time, and I will smile at his happy smiles while he plays.


Nosy Strangers and Babies

This was odd. I was at Starbucks today chatting with a friend. I was getting ready to leave, Sam was fussing, and a woman started to speak to me.

At this point, Sam being 9 months old already, I’m well acquainted with the looks, the smiles, the harmless curiosity of questions such as “How old is he?” that are drawn out by his wide blue eyes and observant gaze. Once or twice I’ve gotten a question like “Are you breastfeeding?” and then the asker has the good grace to look embarrassed and apologize for asking what they realize was a personal question. Mostly, I don’t mind the attention that Sam brings or the accompanying questions. I figure that moms of young kids like to reach out and connect with other moms. I also reckon that Sam is so incredible that his super baby magnetism just pulls people in.

The woman in Starbucks was a bit different. She stood several feet away at the counter while I strapped a fussing Sam into his car seat. The woman started with a typical question.

“Is he hungry?”
“No, he’s tired. It’s nap time,” I answered distractedly.
“So, he naps twice a day?”
“No, he only takes one nap a day,” as I busily searched for a stray tiny sneaker.
“So what time does he go to sleep then?
“Well…um…”
“Like 7 o’clock?”
“Sometimes…” I trailed off as I wondered why is this strange woman asking me all these questions. I felt in the sides of the car seat, and on the floor, and then groped around beneath Sam’s butt and behind his back. Where was that sneaker? Meanwhile, Sam had begun to cry. I was getting a little agitated. I knew Sam would calm down as soon as I could get him out into the fresh air. I knew I would calm down if I could find the missing shoe and get away from the weird prying woman. I glanced at my friend, and she whispered, “Do you know her?” “Not at all,” I replied.

Then I found the shoe. Sam’s blue sneaker with the orange thread detail from Carter’s – except I found them in a consignment shop for $3 in perfect, pristine condition. This, by the way, was the same sneaker that just last month I had lost on the side of the interstate. This time it was under Sam’s jacket. His cute, fuzzy blue jacket with the bear ears on the hood. That he was wearing. So I had managed to put his jacket on, zip it up, and buckle the car seat straps over and across his chest, without noticing that I was wedging the sneaker against his chest under the jacket. No wonder he was fussy, but in my defense I was distracted by the weird woman.

The weird woman who, having received her coffee, appeared again as I was exiting. She said “I do that, too.” I’m not even sure what she was talking about.
Do these things happen to anyone else?


Battle of the Binky – Part I: To use, or not to use? That is the question.

Jack and I have wavered back and forth on this subject more times than I can remember in the past 9 months. Do we let Sam have a pacifier? I recoil from the idea of plugging up an unhappy baby’s cries with a pacifier. I’d much rather use holding, caressing, rocking, singing, nursing, really any number of loving methods to soothe my son. In those first few months though, I believe that infants have a desire to suck even if they’re not hungry. If we didn’t give him a pacifier then he would suck his fingers. I figured that later on down the road, it would be easier to break a pacifier habit than a thumb sucking habit. You can take away a pacifier more easily than you can remove a toddler’s pudgy fingers from his little mouth.

Jack was dead set against it though. He agreed with me about soothing our baby boy rather than shutting him up. He also hates seeing toddlers and preschoolers walking around with binkies stuck in their mouths, whining unintelligibly around a piece of plastic. He didn’t even want to start down that road. Jack felt much more strongly than I did about it, so I followed his lead on this one. No pacifiers.

First sign of pacifier trouble sprung up when my mother was staying with us. She came running from 700 miles away when I was 3 cm dilated and 75% effaced, kept me company while I remained that way for two weeks, was there when we finally had to induce, and was a lifesaver for the three weeks that she stayed with us after Sam was born. But of course every story has its bumps. My mom is an avid lover of a sucker. I was a sucker baby. Few photos exist of my first year that don’t show me with lips clamped around a sucker.

You can imagine my husband’s aggravation every time my mother kept trying to put a pacifier in Sam’s mouth. (We did have a couple of them as baby shower gifts.) Once I caught her giving one and she insisted that “he liked it.” It got to the point that Jack was angry not just because my mom disagreed on the subject, but that his mother-in-law was deliberately and repeatedly going against our wishes. Dangerous ground here, folks. On top of being exhausted, I had to negotiate the Battle of the Binky. Calm down my husband and get my mother to quit pushing the pacifier.

I kept telling my mom that we didn’t want to use the pacifier. I made sure that I always said “we” even though it was more Jack than me at that point. I didn’t want to let on to her just how much Jack was getting pissed off at what we perceived to be disrespect of our decision. Such a little thing to cause discord, a blue and white piece of plastic, but we certainly didn’t want to set any precedent of allowing our decisions to be steamrolled. Perhaps because it did seem like a little thing, perhaps because she was such an immense help and I loved having her there, perhaps that’s why I wasn’t as forceful as I could have been. I probably would have been more adamant had it gone on.

It turned out that I didn’t need to be any more forceful because this all lasted for a mere several days. We had to take Sam back to the hospital for a fever when he was just five days old. (A story for another day.) We were admitted into the children’s wing, and while there discovered that Sam wasn’t getting enough milk and he was losing weight. There had been problems with the nursing from the first day (again – a story for another day) and lactation consultants had been on hand to help in maternity. This time the lactation consultants were showing up for nearly every meal time, and one of them spotted the pacifier. (I don’t remember why the pacifier was there.) She picked it up in disgust and said, “This is really bad. You shouldn’t use this at all. It’s just going to cause even more problems for Sam. You’re trying to get him to learn to latch on and suck from your nipples, but then you’ve got this pacifier nipple that is a completely different shape.”

After the lactation consultant left the room, my mom picked up the pacifier and said, “I’ll throw away the horrible offending pacifier.” She turned to me and said, “I’m so sorry, here you are having all these problems nursing, and I didn’t even think, it didn’t even occur to me about the nipple confusion.” And she tossed the pacifier into the trash. True, it took a lactation consultant to get my mother to stop pushing the pacifier, but she did stop, and that was victory enough for me.