Head and shoulders

Like most parents, Chris and I like to think that our precious daughter will grow up to have the beauty of a supermodel, the athleticism of an Olympian and the brains of an Ivy Leaguer. With two such beautiful parents and quite the auspicious start, we think the first is highly probable (thanks to Daddy, she may even have the height of a supermodel), and on the intellectual front, well, we can only hope the Mozart I play while I’m rocking her is working — and that the “Real Gilligan’s Island” marathon I watched while nursing isn’t. But while we can only cross our fingers on the beauty and brains, I am pretty sure Maddi’s already got the brawn part covered.

Because she equates the absence of comforting arms around her to being tormented with hot pokers, Maddi doesn’t get as much tummy time as I would like her to have. Not only do I hate seeing that sad, quivery expression and those accusatory little tear-filled eyes, but I am afraid the neighbors will call the authorities when they hear the frantic screams our tiny princess emits when she is placed on her tummy away (and therefore away from Mommy’s or Daddy’s cozy embrace).

However, when the wee one is in a good mood, all fed and changed and burped and napped, I do try to put her on her belly on a blanket for a few minutes a day so she can exercise her little muscles. While those few minutes often end up being approximately three seconds, on Thursday she managed to contain her desperation for a while and exercise body parts other than her lungs.

Owing to my tubful-of-poo-induced back injury, I hadn’t given her tummy time in nearly two weeks, but apparently she’s been finding other ways of working out. My guess is that the 100 or so vertical pushups she does during each burp session have given her extraordinary bicep strength, in addition to giving us frequent updates on how well her neck muscles are doing.

As usual, I put Maddi down on the blanket Thursday to play. While I’m used to her raising her head and looking straight ahead, and even getting her shoulders off the ground, I was not prepared for our little angel’s latest trick.

This little, not-quite-seven-week-old baby not only lifted her head and shoulders. but raised herself on her arms, pushup-style, so that her chest was completely off the ground and her head was looking up at me. Then she grabbed the blanket and pulled it toward her, in what could be construed by delusional parents as an obvious effort to crawl off, get a contract with Ford Models, and solve each and every one of the Millennium Problems.

This is her most impressive feat to date, but not the only thing she’s got in her bag of tricks. She has also recently mastered the art of scooting about on her back, which means that no matter how snug the sleep positioner is around her sides, she can use those sturdy little legs to wriggle her way up the mattress until her head hits the end of the crib. Another trick is the binky toss, in which she grabs the pacifier from her mouth and flings it anywhere from two to five feet, then wails frantically because she has lost her suckie. Yesterday’s record-setting binky toss was executed from the change table, where the pacifier was thrown over the rocker, landing just short of the crib, which is situated on the opposite wall from the point of execution. I would be proud that little Maddux can pitch like her namesake, except that her new skill requires me to constantly sanitize pacifiers, a time-consuming chore that takes time away from things Maddi places a higher priority on: being fed, being changed out of poopy, spitupy clothing, and being fed again because the pooping and spitting up left room for more food.

She was such an active little fetus that none of this should surprise me, but somehow it does — every time she does something new.

As I finish writing this, Maddi is practicing for her next trick — the inevitable escape from the confines of her bouncy seat. As usual, her lungs are about to get some exercise as well. What new feats of physical fitness will she be performing next week? No one knows. At the rate she is going, I will be chasing her down the block.

I knew we should have placed more importance on looks and brains! What have we gotten ourselves into?

And here is the seven-week picture of our little athlete in what looks to be karate practice:

Day sleeper

It seems my excitement about Maddi’s sleep schedule was a bit premature. Perhaps it was taking her to an afternoon wedding two hours away, when she slept on the drive up, during the drive back, AND all through the ceremony and reception. Perhaps it’s because she’s picked up on the fact that I’ve been tense since throwing out my back carrying a tubful of poopy bathwater through the house to empty it in the tub rather than in the kitchen sink (but under the circumstances, wouldn’t you do the same?). Maybe, as Nana has suggested, it’s part of the six-week feeding-schedule changeup babies sometimes go through.

Whatever the cause, Maddi has ceased slumbering for five hours at a stretch and has decided that nighttime is no longer for sleeping, but rather is a great time for several leisurely dinners. Her “big” chunks of nighttime sleep now last approximately an hour and a half. And since her sister is in town, we are spending more time than usual in the car, which means that Maddi is spending several more hours a day sleeping than she usually does.

Short of continually waking her up during the day — which as anyone who knows Maddi can tell you is impossible anyway — I am not sure what to do. Normally this is something I could think over and solve, but since I’m getting on average about four or five (broken) hours of sleep nightly, my brain is not fully operational. To give you an idea of how bad it is, Chris has had to prompt me when I’ve forgotten simple words. I can’t even remember the last time I used a five-dollar word in conversation.

Even worse, at the beginning of the previous paragraph, you may notice I used the word “continually.” This is courtesy of Merriam-Webster. Normally I would be able to explain to you that “continually” and “continuously” are not interchangeable and then tell you in which instances each word should be used. But today I could not for the life of me remember which one was appropriate to use when you are talking about something that happens repeatedly rather than unceasingly. I guessed “continuously,” but then decided to double-check myself. And I was wrong. Considering that I made a career of knowing what word to use and when, and did much of my work on very little sleep and past most people’s bedtimes, this signifies some pretty severe sleep deprivation indeed.

Despite her determination to drive me utterly mad with sleeplessness, Maddi continues to develop very nicely in other ways. Smiles now can be coaxed out of our wee daughter almost anytime. When she wakes up alone in her crib and wails for Mommy, her cries cease as soon as I lean over the crib — and sometimes, if she’s not inconsolable yet, as soon as she hears my footsteps in the hallway. She has at last discovered that diaper changes, while cold and annoying, won’t actually culminate in her painful demise. And just this Monday, as Nana was giving her a bottle, she grabbed it with both hands.

All of this is very thrilling indeed, but at 4 a.m. as I watch the first rays of sunlight begin to creep through the blinds and I’m running on an hour of sleep, most nights I would trade it for those nice five-hour chunks of slumber we were enjoying a week and a half ago.

Well, except for all the smiling she’s been doing lately. That’s too cute!

And here’s a picture of our unsleeping beauty one day before she turned six weeks old, giving one of her big grins:

Oh, happy day

Maddi and I both woke up in great moods today. My high spirits were a result of her sleeping for five hours in a row, and NOT (as often happens) in her bouncy seat with me turning the music and vibration back on every 15 minutes. Her high spirits occurred because she woke up well-rested, was retrieved from her crib before her quiet fussing turned into frantic crying, and was promptly changed and fed to bursting.

Chris and I enjoyed a good 20 minutes of Maddi’s morning cuteness today. Maddi was in her bouncy seat, where I had put her about an hour earlier so I could grab a few extra Zs for the road. Chris had come into the room to retrieve some clothing and Maddi gurgled “Hi, Daddy!” to him and “Wake up and play with me!” to me (just not in so many words). Maddi is usually a mellow little angel in the morning, and we happened to catch her during a period of very happy alertness.

There is nothing better than a blissful baby, and this morning was one of those perfect blissful-baby moments. It started with some cute cooing, and Chris stuck around to hear Maddi’s latest word, “ah-goo” (also very popular is the ever-adorable “glurrhh”). Then, realizing she had the complete attention of both Mommy and Daddy at once — usually she doesn’t even have them in the same room at once — Maddi let loose a barrage of smiles, grins, smirks and near-laughs, along with additional utterances of “ah-goo,” “glurrhh” and even the odd “glaaa.”

We admit these are not actual words, but we still thought they were brilliant and adorable. And we have never seen her smile for such an extended period of time. We took turns giving her kisses and were rewarded by her trying to suck on our noses, which we shall assume was her ill-coordinated attempt to reciprocate that expression of affection.

I have to say that, in my book, nothing compares with the joy of interacting with one’s baby, and for her to be in such a great mood and so social for so long was pure magic. This morning was one of those memories I will keep in my heart forever.

Cue violins

Coming soon: A cute picture of Maddi at five weeks.

Baby blues

Today our precious progeny is one month old. I suppose we should put a candle on her bottle and throw her a little party to celebrate her passage through these first rough weeks of life, but what I really feel like doing is having a good cry.

Despite the sleepless nights and the loss of my identity as anything more than a human dairy, I have thoroughly enjoyed bonding with my baby girl and have spent many a moment watching her sleep and thinking wistfully, “She will never be this young again.”

Now, she’s no longer that young and even though I treasured every minute I had with my newborn, I find myself tearing up at the thought that those moments are gone, never to return. Even if, like so many parents, I try to remedy this problem by having another baby, it won’t be the same precious baby I’ve enjoyed so much.

Every time I hear the bleating noise Maddi makes in her sleep when she’s working on what Chris calls a “Mommy present,” I wonder will this be the last time our little lambykins say “baa”?

Already she has grown up so much. She has gained two pounds and counting. She’s quit falling asleep on the bottle. When her pacifier falls out, she’s able to quickly find a finger or thumb to replace it with. And when she’s offered a meal, whether it’s via plastic or Mommy, she immediately stops crying and starts panting excitedly. Gone are the innocent days of not knowing where her food came from. The look of surprise she used to get when something was put in her mouth has been replaced by an expression that says “Well, you certainly took your time with that!”

One of these days, Maddi’s going to develop motor skills and be able to grab the toys I offer her. Someday in the not-too-distant future, our wee gourmand will become interested in table food. And within the year, she will be traveling freely about the house on the chubby little legs that now do nothing more than kick wildly during diaper changes.

All of these milestones will be great and joyous events, but they will also mean that we will no longer have the same baby we have now. And we are loving our little girl so much as she is, it is hard to fathom not having this exact form of bliss forever and ever. With each passing day, Maddux looks older and loses a bit more of that kittenlike newborn-ness that I so adore. I don’t love her any less, of course — in fact, I cherish this baby more as time passes — but at the same time as I celebrate all the “firsts” my ever-growing daughter is experiencing, I grieve the loss of my tiny, warm, brand-new baby.

I totally skipped the baby blues that most new moms experience, and boy am I glad I did. But I have discovered another misery, one that comes of having such happiness in being a mother: the agony of knowing this new-baby bliss can’t last forever.

And here is the one-month picture of our little girl, who is not a newborn anymore and never will be again (sob!).

Like a baby

As I write this, little miss Maddux is sleeping like a baby. Which means she is lying in her crib about to wake up and realize she is being neither fed nor held. You see, the entire phrase is misleading. Sure, a sleeping infant looks peaceful, especially to the uninitiated. But those who live with newborns know that the slumber of a baby is as ephemeral as the little gas smiles that dance across its face.

The literature says breastfed babies sleep up to three hours at a stretch in the day and up to five at night. The literature lies.

Thus it is with great pleasure that I announce that on Wednesday night, Maddi slept for three hours in a row, had a 1 a.m. snack and then slept for another four hours.

This may not sound like much, but prior to this week she has slept no more than a few hours at a stretch, and usually not more than 90 minutes. When she is awake, nothing but food and cuddling will do, even if it’s 4 a.m. (hey, especially when it’s 4 a.m.!), so her sleeping this much during the night is a Very Big Thing. Accustomed to operating on two or three two-hour stretches of sleep per night, I woke up Thursday morning practically drunk with slumber and exilharated by the implications of Maddi’s newfound ability to sleep for as long as normal newborns are supposed to sleep.

Granted, last night I planned for her to be in bed at 10 or 11 and she wanted to eat and play until 2 a.m., and then awaken for hourlong feedings every hour thereafter. But I’m going to call that a fluke (the kind that I hope can be remedied by not having iced cappucinos in the evening) and say that she is finally figuring out that nighttime is for sleeping and that, while my nighttime hours are flexible, Mommy is not a 24-hour buffet.

Once she starts sleeping for longer stretches, perhaps I will be able to do things I haven’t done in a month — things such as using the bathroom, eating in places other than the bed, and taking only one day to write the short weekly blog entry.

If our ambitious plan to have Maddi sleep for several hours at a stretch comes to fruition, my next order of business is even more optimistic — one day in the future, we may get Maddi to be OK with being awake while not being held or fed. That way, we can get pictures of her without Mommy or Daddy in them (oddly, what with the lack of sleep around here, nobody really wants to be photographed anymore).

But for now, I’m just happy that our little girl is now sleeping like a baby. Sure, it’s fitful, three- or four-hour sleep. But after four weeks of fitful, two-hour sleep, we’ll take it!

And here’s Maddi’s 4-week-old picture, taken during one of Maddi’s naps: