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Guess what I did?

 

He pooped in the potty!  He pooped in the potty!  Stop the presses: he pooped in the potty!

Think this is a weird thing to get excited about?  Then you have obviously never raised a toddler.  This is a situation of location, location, location.  A fresh steaming pile of excremement smeared around in a diaper? Quotidian.  A fresh, steaming pile of excremement in a gleaming, never-used Baby Bjorn potty?   Victory!

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not hardcore potty trainers over here.  It’s not like we marked a date on a calendar and said, “Miles must be potty trained by this date!”  (Nor do I think one poop in the potty means we’re bidding diapers adieu.)  We’re also not doing the “boot camp” style of potty training in which you teach a kid in three days by abruptly going diaper-free.  We’re kind of taking the approach that he’ll learn to use the potty the way he learned to use a spoon — gradually, through imitation, and with often messy results.  So we show him how to sit on the potty seat and give him lots of practice sitting on it while we read him books.  And that is about the extent of our potty training.

He has peed in the potty exactly twice.  The first time, when the urine started to flow,  he looked frightened, jumped up, and tried to hold the pee in with his hand.  The second time he sat down, grunted, peed, and acted like it was no big deal.  But the first time was over a month ago, and we haven’t been very focused on the potty lately with all of our travel.

So we weren’t expecting much this morning when Miles wandered over to his potty, sat on it still wearing his diaper, and said conversationally, “Miles potty!”

I took his diaper off just in case, and Robin sat down to read him a book.  After awhile, Miles became completely engrossed in the book — a favorite of his, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” — and seemed to forget his purpose.

“Okay Miles, go ahead and poop,” Robin said.

So he grunted and pooped.

And we both lost our minds with delight.

We’d been intending to be low-key about any potty victories in order not to put pressure on him, but we couldn’t help ourselves.    Robin cheered, and I took photos of the poop and high-fived him.  I was just so proud — and certainly not of us.  We didn’t do anything.  But Miles did something amazing.  He wanted to poop on the potty, and he did it.  Without anyone forcing or bribing or stickering or cajoling* — with his parents basically being lazy about it, in fact — he decided he was ready and stepped up to the potty.

I mean, come on, what’s not to get excited about?  

See? There it is.

*I am not promising we will never bribe or sticker or cajole, for the record.

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Yeah, so I haven’t been on the blog too much. Here are some recent photos, in no particular order, with no particular theme. My apologies — more entries soon!

Crib.

Seriously?

The reading room.

Train to D.C.

Raisins.

So fresh and so clean.

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Let me be clear: pregnant women do not want your advice.   If they want it, they will ask for it.  And if they ask for it and then realize they disagree with what you are saying, they will probably go vacant-eyed and fantasize about ice cream until you stop talking.  

Mint chip.. Rocky Road... Wait, were you talking?

For the most part, pregnant women or their partners do not want to know what you think about swaddling, whether (and for how long) you believe in breast-feeding, or whether you decry pacifier use as moral downfall or uphold it as your family’s personal salvation.  It’s not that the topics of swaddling, breast feeding or pacifiers don’t interest them.  The problem is that advice givers are so invested in their own choices that their advice, rather than being neutral and informative, is actually a high-pressure sales pitch in disguise.  The expecting parent is like a person who doesn’t yet have a driver’s license but has wandered into a used-car dealership.  “You’re going to buy a car ONE DAY,” the peddler of advice is insisting, “why not buy MIIIIIINE?????  THIS ONE?????  Because I know this one is RIIIIIGHT??!?!?”  And you, the expecting parent, flounder to be polite without committing to anything.

To swaddle or not to swaddle?

My usual approach with expecting parents is to be vague and supportive on any topic.  They don’t need any judgment from me, and if they parent with love everything will probably work out just fine.  My stock phrases are “Every baby is different” and “Whatever works for your family.”  If the expecting parents press me and ask what I did with Miles, I usually answer honestly and then add one of my stock phrases.  Sometimes I finish with, “I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.” 

Swaddling?  “We did it with Miles.  Whatever works for your family.”  Pacifiers? “Miles refused to take one.  Every baby is different.”  Burying the placenta under a neighborhood tree?  “Ewwww!  I mean, um, we didn’t do that. Whatever works for your family.  I’m sure whatever you decide will be fine.”

Pacifier dreams.

But I have opinions.  I’m not claiming my opinions are exclusively right or that they work for everyone.  (See stock phrases above.)  But here, without further disclaimer or self-deprecation,  are my honest opinions.  This is the stuff that I wish the future me could have flown back and told the pregnant me — the stuff I learned the hard way.

1. Baby wash cloths are not necessary.  They are cute, yes, and registering for them is fun.  But they.  Are.  Wash cloths.  Just use what you have at home and call it good.

2.  Pacifiers.  If you can get your baby to take one, thank your lucky stars.  More time on the pacifier is less time on the boob, which can be astonishingly helpful when you want to shower, make a bowl of cereal, or ride the subway in New York city without stripping.  Not that I would know, because Miles refused to take a pacifier.  He was a boob man through and through.  (In the photo at right, we put it in after he was asleep.  It didn’t last.)

3.  This brings me to breast feeding.  I recommend making it work if you can.  I think it’s better than formula (sorry!), but if you are going to breast feed, puh-LEASE don’t be sanctimonious about it.  Breastfeeding does not give anyone license to berate others. 

Plugged in.

If you try BFing and can’t do it, you are not a bad person.  If you try it and succeed, expect to have mixed feelings about it for the first several months at least.  It will sometimes hurt.  You will not necessarily feel “bonded” when your newborn wakes up every two hours at night wanting to latch on.  You will instead feel furious, cranky and tired.  You will think that all those people who described it as a beautiful experience were lying, and you will want to blow them up.   That is okay.  You (like me) may one day describe it as a beautiful experience.  And even though breast feeding in public is embarrassing and some people will freak out and give you flak for it, just do it.  You are feeding a baby in public, not masturbating, and your alternative is to go home EVERY TWO HOURS to feed your baby in private.  Just use a nursing cover or get used to being bare-breasted.

4. Those little baby outfits with the feet on them? Those are pajamas.  No one told me this.  Miles wore those day and night. 

5. Co-sleeping versus the crib.  As you may know, we slept with Miles for the first year.  Now he sleeps in a crib.  We were happy then; we’re happier now.  This really is an every-baby-is-different-whatever-works-for-your-family situation.  Whatever you do, don’t let anyone give you any lip about it.  Lie if you have to.

6. Speaking of lying, get ready to lie about your baby’s sleep.  Everyone will ask you, and no good can come of their response when you answer honestly.  In my experience, most babies sleep badly. Myths of newborns who sleep “all night” are greatly exaggerated.  Different babies respond differently to sleep training efforts, and those differences probably have more to do with the babies themselves than with anything the parents did correctly or incorrectly.  Yet the more sleep deprived you become, the more vulnerable you will be to other people’s advice, mockery, and judgment.  Protect yourself.  Lie!

Sleep is for the weak.

Different people ask about your baby’s sleep for different reasons.  Some — usually parents whose children are long grown or childless people who don’t want to ever have children — feel a cruel sense of pleasure at your suffering.  It’s true; they want to laugh at you.  People whose children sleep through the night want to confirm that they are better parents than you.  With these two types, you neither want to give them the satisfaction of knowing you suffer nor invite their unwanted advice.  When they inquire, smile sweetly and say, “She sleeps all through the night.” 

Others just want to tell you what you are doing wrong.  They may be well-meaning family members or neighbors or someone you meet in a parenting group.   They’re just sure that any baby will sleep for 14 hours at a stretch if you use their method.  Chances are good that, having tried every method, you will want to punch these people.  Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “He sleeps all through the night.”  If your baby magically sleeps all through the night, and anyone asks about it, just be vague.  DO NOT BOAST OR APPEAR TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS MIRACLE.  IF YOU DO, I MIGHT SPIT ON YOU.  Just say, “He sleeps okay.”  If the asker is another parent who looks exhausted and tortured by self-doubt, be vague and compassionate.  Try, “Some nights are better than others.”  If the asker is a friend who is genuinely concerned about your well-being but has no particular stake in the politics of baby sleep, maybe, maybe, MAYBE tell the truth, whatever your truth may be.  But do so at your own risk.

7. I won’t ask you how your baby sleeps, but I might hand you Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West.  It is the baby sleep book that saved us from baby sleep hell.  It’s my favorite because, like me, it’s more middle of the road.  It’s not a strict cry-it-out system like Ferber or Babywise, but it’s not a super-granola attachment parenting manual like The No-Cry Sleep Solution (which I tried valiantly to use for almost a year).  We used the methods in Good Night, Sleep Tight, Miles cried some but in a way I could feel okay about, and now he sleeps so much amazingly better.  He sleeps all through the night.  And I am not even lying.  Get this book.  Now.  NOW.

8. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.  People will tell you it saved their lives.  Personally, I think it’s overhyped.  It worked for us about 60 percent of the time, which was helpful.  But you know what, sometimes all the swaddling and sideways laying and sucking and shhhhhing and swaying in the world does not work.  Sometimes they just cry. If you can borrow the book or DVD from someone, do.  If not, meh.  Whatever.

Dear Harvey Karp: You lied.

9.  Now for the best baby advice I ever received: Be gentle with yourself.  If you are a birthing mother, your hormones will be completely wack-a-doodle-doo for several months.  It is very possible that you will not know who you are any more.  If you are an adoptive mom, a dad, or any other kind of parent, you will still be going through intense experiences that change everything.  Everything.  New parenthood is surreal.  At times in the first weeks, I looked down at the crying bundle in my arms and could not remember its name or whether it was a boy or girl — I just knew I was supposed to appease it.  Give yourself a few months (or a year or so) for things to settle down.  You are doing a great job.  Trust me.  And, of course, congratulations!

This post is dedicated to Tina Anderson and Naomi Frame Powell, who have gracefully endured a great deal of unsolicited advice from me. 

Coming soon: The Breast Feeding Advice You Didn’t Ask For, The Stay-At-Home Parenting Advice You Didn’t Ask For, and more!

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Miles got his first potty seats today — one to go on the big toilet and one that sits on the floor.

He was thrilled, and we spent some time rehearsing what goes where. Barry Bear, a stuffed companion who has been with me since the first week of my life, was extremely patient.

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Happy Birthday, Miles.  Now you are 1.  

Cupcake.

This is officially your second October 11 on this earth.  One year ago yesterday, I got up from bed to pee and my water  broke.  Perching on the toilet and realizing that no one, particularly not a pregnant woman with a bladder the size of a walnut, could pee for that long, I realized what was happening.  I started calling your other mother’s name.  I called and called, but she was deeply asleep and wearing ear plugs.  So I hobbled back to the bedroom, leaking all the way, and shook her awake.  

We could not believe you were finally coming and that you would stop being this abstract source of heartburn and other, less mentionable digestive upsets, and become, for real, a human.   We were stunned, disoriented, and a little giddy.  (We still are, come to think of it.)

Early labor: still smiling.

One year ago today, after 18 hours of (mostly unmedicated) labor, a lot of very deep breaths, and a last-minute trip to the operating room, we met you for the first time.  I’ve written about that moment before.  It remains the most transformative moment of my life. 

From the beginning, you were yourself.  I’m not quite sure how else to put it, but if you ever have children you’ll know what I mean.  This probably sounds dumb to you now, reading this years later, but you were a person from the very first moment your Momma held you to my cheek.  You came fully formed, with likes and dislikes and mannerisms and tendencies and your own particular way of approaching situations.  These twelve months we’ve sat back and marveled at who you are, watching you unfurl.

So very little.

At the time of your birth you were so very new, and these were your chief accomplishments: possessing all the necessary extremities, making profound facial expressions, and sporting a head of tufted reddish hair that made the nurses exclaim.  Yet though you could not move or talk and would not have a name for a day or so, you were you.  You were already the person who now wakes from a nap pointing and asking, “Dat?”, who rewards us with crooked smiles, who chased pigeons while gripping one of our fingers for balance, and who touches new things delicately, with the tip of one pointed finger.  You’re calm, observant, gentle, mischievous, and affectionate.  You love food and wind in your hair and pointing at airplanes and being tossed up and down.

Momma.

Tonight, after your bath, we were wriggling you into your pajamas.  You kept smiling at the yellow ducks on your pajama pants, charming us.  Your Momma said, “One year ago today, you were in my arms.”  She got to hold you and gaze blissfully at your face in the recovery room while the doctors put my guts back in and stitched me up.   The two of you talked of many things; I bet she’ll tell you about it if you ask her. 

One year contains wholeness — every season, every month, and every day.  Like you, it is a template with reassuring solidity, yet it contains infinite future variations.   Who will you be as your Novembers and Februaries and Fourths of July pile up?  Very likely, you will be calm, observant, gentle, mischievous and affectionate.   You will get over your passion for airplanes, and your vocabulary, currently comprising three sparkling, jewel-like words, will grow.  (Your three words are cat, bye-bye, and truck.)  You will speak in sentences.  You will walk without holding on — maybe even tomorrow.   You will also surprise us, awe us, terrify us. 

This year was not easy for me in particular, perhaps because the stakes seemed so high.  I was supposed to keep you alive, for gosh sake, and fatten you up and lure you into sleep and stop you from bashing your head on the furniture and let you explore.   At times I was absolutely dizzy with worry.  This year was also beautiful.  We love you madly, Miles.  We’re absolutely, terribly smitten with you.  Just when we think you couldn’t get more lovely, you astound us with unimaginable levels of delectability and genius.

Already ancient.

Happy birthday, dear one.  Happy first, and welcome to your second year.

Birthday morning.

 

Gotta be me.

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When you’re an expectant parent, people like to warn you about the diapers.  They groan with horror and glee, predicting the years of stinky suffering you’ll endure.  Poop is not glamorous, I admit.  It smells.  It has surprising textures.  It gets everywhere.  Yet I was pleased to find that, barring a putrid blowout or a fortnight of diarrhea (which Miles recently suffered), I don’t really mind diapers. 

In fact, the changing table has turned out to be one of the best spots for excellent photos.  The nursery is flooded with light, Miles is usually sprawled out and ready to go, and we’ve often been smiling and cooing at one another.  So here’s some fun with “then and now,” on the changing table.

November.

December.

January.

February.

March.

April.

May.

In June and July, he was just too wiggly and wild.   He wanted to practice crawling or grab the toys from the shelf or rip my glasses off of my face and chew on them.  I could barely get the diaper on and off, much less linger for a photo shoot.  Would this be the end of the changing table magic?

Then, on Wednesday, he was joyful and mellow and smiling at me as I changed him.  The lighting was perfect.  I grabbed the camera, and he rewarded me with this gem.

August.

Parenting is dirty work.  But it’s also stunningly beautiful, isn’t it?

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Sad sack.

So, Miles got his first fever Sunday night and has been cooking ever since.  The doctor says it’s Roseola — a virus that usually gives a high fever for three days (or as many as seven!), followed by a ghastly whole-body rash when the fever breaks.  Our poor little guy has been pitiful.  He grips us with his hot little hands and looks at us beseechingly.  Nursing him is like cuddling up to a pot-bellied stove.  When we try to make him laugh, he cackles weakly and then looks pained, as if happiness were too much trouble. 

Being soft-hearted rookie parents, we are lavishing him with sympathy and cuddles.  Robin even came home early from work yesterday, though that was partly to relieve me of duty.  Or so she said, as she rushed in the door and scooped Miles up in her arms.   “Can I take him to the doctor, or do you want to come with us?”  she asked as politely as possible.

Poor little munchkin.  For the next few days, you’ll find us cuddling and sweating.

Hold me, Mommy.

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