Gingery progress (or lack thereof) notes

5 12 2012

The little cat: he’s easy. I mean, he’s still a sly, mostly-invisible presence in the house, and it might yet be years, literally, until we can get him back to the vet’s for the booster that was due last month or any other health maintenance, but he’s eating at the top of the stairs twice a day and coming out into the downstairs to investigate the place during quiet parts of the day, and in the past week has moved from “quiet” meaning “no human noises have been heard for at least an hour” to “quiet” meaning “only a few humans are there, and they’re sitting down so it would take time for them to get up to chase me.” Yesterday Evanny and I were on the living room floor (for a while I was trying to play with her and she was complaining, and then I was typing and she eating), and he was sitting on the floor in the doorway to the dining room, just watching. Last night while Matt was home, he came out into the living room for just a minute to investigate the smell of Matt’s school bag, and then when Matt went off to band practice, and Evanny and I were hanging out by the naked Christmas tree (i.e. she was asleep on me, and I was being still to enjoy the lack of screaming–which was especially nice when Gustav came to lie on me too, falling asleep purring the minute he lay down), he came to hang out under the couch across from us, where he and I could see each other, to look at the tree, look at us, and occasionally foray out to nibble some dropped crumb off the rug (at least somebody in this house is pleased by our crap housekeeping!). Today, he even took two scraps of freezerburned turkey from my fingers (albeit literally “took”–snatched and ran off with, but then came back to do it again). So at least one of the feral creatures is becoming measurably more tame.

The other one is lying in the bassinet beside me, crying. Raging, then whining, then weeping, cyclically. She will quiet down to a low burbling mutter, which sounds like an almost-sleeping baby, and then she will hear herself, take exception to surrender, and start screaming again. She has been fed this morning, spent some time gazing lovingly at her ceiling fan, spent some time on her activity mat swatting at objects, and had a massage that started out as tummy time and turned into a nap when she passed out in the middle of it. Trouble was, it was only a 20-minute nap, and she’s more tired than that, since she wouldn’t go-to-and-stay-in bed last night until nearly midnight, so now she’s miserable because she doesn’t want to be awake, and trying to fall back asleep by tossing her head around isn’t leading to success. Picking her up to soothe her is an irrelevant concept, because it doesn’t soothe her–she just yells by my ear instead of by my side. She’s starting to suck her fingers a little, “learning to self-soothe,” Matt says, and she does seem to find it soothing, but when it hasn’t worked in 30 seconds–i.e. when she realizes she’s still awake–she throws the hand away to the end of her arm and starts yelling again. I’m left to suppose this is the learning curve for how babies become creatures who nap, and so I’m staying near her, hoping she’ll fall back asleep before she bursts a blood vessel. Dancing her around the room would make her happier, but I did that an awful lot yesterday, and my back insists that we have a day off from it, or at least a morning, if I would like to still be able to stand by the time the day is over, so it’s accidentally time for harsher techniques. The websites all say to periodically touch them, “soothe” crying, learning-to-sleep babies by putting a hand on their chests and making comforting shushing noises, but these acts do not soothe the baby, she just gets louder to try to out-yell the shushing noises and continues to do the same whole-body head-tossing under my hand that she was doing without it. Really, I’m not sure my interventions have ever soothed this baby–unless I’m intervening by sticking milk into her mouth, which will be happening soon, as it’s now going on three hours since first breakfast, and although hunger was not the problem initially, I’m sure it’s bound to start compounding the issue soon. So I’ll feed her, and then she’ll sleep on me for a while, and then I’ll eventually have to pee (or want to eat something other than the bowl of Cheerios I managed alongside laundry and getting dressed during the 20 minutes), so I’ll put her down, and she’ll wake up, and we’ll probably start another cycle of crying as a primary activity until it’s time to eat again. Or maybe I’ll break down and court injury by reverting to dancing.

The day’s bright light? Our friend Nell is coming over this afternoon to do a shift of dancing, so the baby will get at least some of what she likes best during the day. Whether she will make any progress towards learning to nap, though, is anybody’s guess. Hanging around watching her cry while I try to train her in the stuff feels mean and somewhat stupid, but the reality (I keep reminding myself) is that if I were wandering around the house with her instead of putting her down, she’d still be crying every time I paused, and she can’t live in the sling or on my shoulder all the time (I have to teach classes next semester–online, but still; I’m going to need blocks of time to respond to student writing, and I can’t do that while dancing), so she’s going to have to learn to get the sleep she needs without being constantly rocked by the dancing mummy.

Finally a lull; she’s lying in her bassinet now wide-awake, staring at her stuffed monkey, and yawning wide enough to break her face. She wants to sleep, she just has no idea how to do it, and I can’t get inside her brain to show her (not like I actually know anyway!), so all I can do is try to be supportive while she struggles to figure it out for herself. The real lesson here, I think, is to get this pattern down–for me–and then apply it to the rest of parenthood. I “help” Caleb too much, trying to steer him to efficient solutions instead of letting him puzzle. Of course, I’m also trying to help Evanny find her thumbs before she learns to gag herself by sucking her fingers, always trying to pull the folded thumb out from the center of her fist for her, so clearly I need more practice. The crying has resumed, by the way. The lulls aren’t long, and the tired baby is very, very frustrated. I’ve been reading about overtiredness (we’ve got that) and about 90-minutes baby sleep cycles, but it’s pretty clear that she’s got a knack for outlasting the 5-15 window experts say I have to get her down before the next cycle starts. She’s been known to cry through the whole 90 minutes, miss the next window, and do it again, all while being rocked and patted. So now I know why people used to make sure there was beer in their breast milk….

So I guess it’s time to rescue her for a diaper change and second breakfast. We have to run to the grocery store; she’ll surely fall asleep in the car during the 6 minute car-ride and then be mad about waking up all over again, and then we’ll spend the non-eating parts of the afternoon doing more of this. This part of baby-wrangling? It’s no fun at all. I’d much rather be putting treats on the kitchen floor taming a kitten.

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