Tag Archives: dominic

I’m moving!

All is slightly chaotic on the Laos front as we prepare to move this weekend to a house that doesn’t have a spiral staircase, an unfenced pool adjoining the property, or neighbors running a woodworking business. It also doesn’t have a full kitchen inside, which is going to be a royal pain in the rear at times, but in all other respects it is a lovely house with a beautiful guest room – so let us know if you’re going to be in town.

On top of the move we’re trying to book tickets and organize our schedules for a month away as we visit the Washington DC area between mid-April and mid-May. I’m trying to decide whether it’s feasible for me to leave Dominic in Mike’s capable hands for three days to attend a writing festival in Michigan, and we’re trying to organize to visit family in Pennsylvania, figure out some time away just as a family, and split time between Mike’s parents and my sister’s house. Oh, and we have to stop over in Bangkok on the way home to get Dominic checked out at Bumrungrad hospital. Logistics galore. And trying to organize travel always makes me feel a bit like this:

In other news, I’m on my third round of antibiotics in the last six weeks – this time for a stubborn double ear infection (what am I, like, seven? I haven’t had an ear infection since childhood).

And I’m not only moving house this week in the physical sense, I’m moving house in the e-sense! My new and much improved website and blog are coming soon. Oh, and I’ve decided upon a cover for Love At The Speed Of Email. I love it, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

So things might be a bit quiet around here in the next two weeks as I work behind the scenes to finalize all the details of transitioning to my new home(s). I’ll let you know the new subscription details as soon as I have them so that those of you who subscribe via RSS can update your settings. I hate to make you move, but I’ll be staying put at this new address indefinitely and I’m looking forward to the e-stability.

Hope everyone’s week has started off well,

Lisa

Fifteen years of longsuffering

It has been the month of patience.

Or, maybe more appropriately, it has been the month of patience being tested.

The last six weeks has held one broken leg (Dominic), two courses of antibiotics for intestinal infections (Mike and me), three trips to Thailand (all of us), and five colds.

It’s been more than a month since Dominic broke his leg and I still don’t want to write about it. Truth be told, I don’t even want to think about it. Because every time I remember hearing the crash after Mike’s mother slipped and landed on the stairs, then the long pause, then that awful, piercing shriek, it breaks my heart all over again.

And it hauls up – like a fishing net from dark depths – a whole slew of emotions.

The agony and helplessness I felt watching Dominic writhe and cry on and off during the thirty hours before we reached the hospital. Anger, because it feels like an accident that didn’t need to happen. Guilt about that anger, because accidents – unexpected and unintentional – happen, they are just part and parcel of this life. Guilt, also, that I didn’t realize immediately that something was seriously wrong. A great compassion for Mike’s mother, because I know she adores Dominic and would have changed places with him in an instant, and because I know how terrible I’d feel if it had been me that slipped on the stairs, and it could have been me. Gratitude that it was Dominic’s leg, not his head, that hit the wood so hard. Terror and an overwhelming desire to vomit whenever I visualize what would have happened if it had been his head.

And with this great mess of emotions – all slippery and flopping around and tangled up together – comes a question that is always lurking around somewhere: Is it worth it, living here?

Now, more than ever, I’m just not sure.

Dominic’s cast came off two weeks ago now. We got up early that day and caught the 7AM flight down to Bangkok. We found our way to a hospital that’s become more familiar to me than any hotel in the city.

I held Dominic in the taxi – me seatbelted in and him strapped to my chest in the baby carrier, my hand cradling the back of his head, my brain trying not to think about the likely outcome if we hit another car on the freeway. Mike held him as he screamed, terrified, while they sawed off the plaster, and then took the pictures that would tell us what was going on inside the reassuringly chubby leg.

Which meant that I was the one looking at the computer screens when the X-rays came up, and I didn’t like what I saw.

The front view showed a straight bone, but the side view showed the femur curved backwards – the spiky back part of the break still dense white and jutting out at an angle underneath the thin grey film of new bone.

The doctors told us that new bone was visible over the entire break site and that it was safe to take off his cast. They told us that bones (like so many other things in life, it seems) need to be subjected to normal daily stressors in order to prompt them to grow.  They told us that we should encourage Dominic to use the leg normally as he learns to sit, crawl, and walk.

They also told us, however, that there was no way of telling whether the femur will straighten out over time and grow normally. Because the break occurred so close to the knee, there is a significant possibility that growth will stall or, even more likely, that the bone will start to grow too fast in all sorts of funny directions.

We need to follow up via X-rays every six months for the next three years and then every year after that until the growth spurts of adolescence are over.

That’s at least fifteen years.

Fifteen years of explaining what happened to every new doctor and new school. Fifteen years of watching, of X-rays, of prayers, of keeping fingers crossed. Fifteen years of regular reminders.

It means that I can’t just leave that slew of painful emotions down in the depths and hope that if I don’t touch the thread of this particular story all those complicated feelings – starved of attention – will just wither away.

It’s early days yet, there’s no way of knowing which particular emotion is most frequently going to leap out of the morass and bite me when circumstances haul that day up from the depths of memory. Guilt? Anger? Frustration at the expense and the giant pain-in-the-ass-factor of all these follow up appointments? Grief over how this might limit Dominic’s mobility? Any of them are possibilities, but only one thing seems certain – this episode is going to push me to exercise patience in ways I’ve never before had to.

The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 to refer to patience, makrothumia, comes from makros, “long,” and thumos, “temper.” It denotes lenience, fortitude, endurance, and longsuffering.

Before this month of patience started I thought that I had this one in the bag. Even Mike, who has a backstage pass to my life, would say that I am a patient person. I’m very skilled at controlling my reactions in the moment, at taking a deep breath and a step back, at not lashing out when I’m frustrated. It takes a great deal to make me really angry or upset.

But … the thing is … once I do get upset or angry I tend to stay churned up for a long time. Once the tipping point is reached, I hang onto all that dark energy and coddle it like a favorite pet. I feel justified in camping out under a cloud of self-pity. I have imaginary conversations during which I deliver perfect put-downs. I rehearse all the ways I’ve been wronged by others or the universe. I allow the misfortunes of the present to fuel fearful visions of the future.

Although I’ve always known that this is not my most admirable collection of qualities, I’ve never before wondered whether it had anything to do with patience. But perhaps there is more to patience than not getting upset, frustrated or angry in the first place. Perhaps true patience is also manifest in how we set about calming the storms once they’re raging?

I don’t exactly know what being “patient” with fifteen years of uncertainty about the future of that tiny, precious leg should look like. I sense, however, that it will need to move beyond not losing my temper when ugly, unwanted thoughts and feelings well up.

I suspect that weathering fifteen years of longsuffering with a patient grace will mean opening that net-full whenever circumstances haul it up and dump it at my feet. It will mean shaking loose its contents and naming these feelings, then naming the bedrock fears and expectations that have nourished them.

It will mean sifting out the thankfulness and then tossing the dross overboard.

Then turning my eyes from the depths and looking to the horizon.

Again and again.

And again.

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Sometimes you try

Saturday was a long day. There was a 5AM start, a flight to Thailand, four doctors appointments, three immunizations, two X-rays and a cast removal. We’d known it would be a hard day, so Mike and I had planned a special treat for after it was all over – we booked into a nice hotel with a pool and took Dominic for his first swim.

The result? Well, let’s just say the photos belong in Mike’s “Sometimes You Try” facebook album.

Me: “Dominic, guess what, we’re going swimming. Swimming is fun!”
Dominic: “You also said the needles would only hurt a little bit. I totally don’t trust you on this one.”

Family kodak moment fail. Here are a couple of other photos that belong in that “Sometimes You Try” album:

“Just for the record, totally not enjoying this sightseeing trip up Phousi Hill.”

“You want to know what my wish is for when we release the birds? I’ll give you one guess and a hint – it has to do with going home.”

“Are you two kissing me again? Do you have no concept of personal space at all?”

“Grandparents? Boring.”

“I love me some Zulu.”

“And Zulu loves himself some baby spew.”

Mike: “Dominic! Smile for the camera!”
Dominic: “I don’t know who these two are, never seen them before in my life.”

Finally, a bonus “sometimes you try” video: Dominic’s introduction to vegetables (and don’t worry, despite all appearances to the contrary at the end of this clip, Dominic was not seriously choking).

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Heading back toward normal

This is my first Writing Wednesday post in quite a while. Sorry. It’s been a tough couple of weeks over here. Normal routine went right out the window with Dominic’s fall down the stairs and it hasn’t returned yet.

It’s not just that, though, my ability to focus and my desire to write seem to have been just as abruptly displaced and they haven’t really returned yet either. In particular, I have no desire to write in detail about the day of the accident – even thinking about that day still makes me feel sick.

But.

Many of you have written wanting to know how Dominic is, and a couple have even inquired after book baby. So as I’m inching back toward trying to write something more demanding, here is an update on both of the babies.

Baby in cast: Dominic seems to be doing better. He veers between ferociously grumpy and ferociously cheerful on a minute-by-minute basis, but he’s off pain medication and he’s moving that leg more – trying to hoist it up in the air, and sometimes succeeding. Of course, then it comes crashing down again and hits the floor. I’ve seen him do this more than once (it makes me wince every time) so either cause-and-effect hasn’t really kicked in yet or his leg is feeling much better.

Only twelve more days until we travel back to Bangkok to (hopefully) have the cast removed. My parents also arrive here for a visit on Thursday so I’ll have more grandparent hands on deck to help with baby entertainment soon.

Oh, and if you’re new to this blog and you’re wondering why on earth Dominic’s cast is decorated the way that it is, read this. T’is the month of patience.

Baby in press: Plans for Love At The Speed Of Email are moving forward. The manuscript is finished and I should even have a cover within a month, which is a very fun prospect!! I’ve received some overwhelmingly lovely endorsements about the book from other authors that I’m excited to share with you in time, my website and blog will be getting a total facelift, and I’m tentatively starting to plan for a release about mid-April.

And speaking of books: A great friend of mine, Nicole Baart, has her next book releasing today: Far From Here. She’s running a neat launch-day challenge (A Celebrate Books Party) and will be donating books to an orphanage in Liberia based on how high the Amazon ranking gets today. I bought my copy on kindle this morning (and here, please pause for a melodious ode to kindle and nook and all other e-readers that jump oceans and cross borders in the blink of an eye). I love Nicole’s writing. She’s a natural poet and a graceful novelist and I can’t wait to read Far From Here. Happy book launch day, Nicole!

And speaking of writing: A weird thing happened last night: I had a post go viral on facebook for the first time. Not viral as-in the Influenza pandemic of 1914-1918, more like viral as in the cold that swept through this house last week, but it was still a bizarre thing to come home from dinner and find that while I’d been out this post about things that had surprised me about motherhood had been shared dozens of times by complete strangers and scores of people were flooding to my blog. More on that topic soon.

So, I’m curious.

Do you all have any thoughts on reigniting that creative spark and getting back on track with your work after hitting a major speed-bump in life?

And how has writing (or other creative pursuits) helped you during times of great stress?

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From Peace to Patience

Every day of life is a gift. Sometimes, however, the daily gift feels a bit like finding polyester socks – the kind that make your feet sweat and itch – under the Christmas tree.

So it has been every day this week. I’ve had a vicious head cold – the kind that makes it impossible to breathe easily and sends sharp pain through your ears. I’m also still breastfeeding, so can’t take any of the good stuff (the stuff that they now sell from behind the pharmacy counter in the US because people were buying it in bulk and using it to make illegal drugs). It’s only this morning, on day four, that I’ve started to feel marginally better and can dare to hope that I’m on the upswing.

Dominic has been grumpier and needier than normal – not that I blame him for that in the slightest. He’s been waking up multiple times a night (and here I must give a shout out to Mike for taking him away at 4 a.m. several times this week so I could try to get another hour or two of sleep). The cast means that several of my normal baby-entertainment strategies are out. Reading stories has been challenging with a sore throat and a stuffy nose, and twice this week I must admit that I sat both of us down in front of the television and watched Glee. Well, we watched Glee for at least nine and a half minutes before someone started crying and throwing things.

For the record: Not that it wasn’t tempting, but that someone wasn’t me.

Everything slows down when you have a baby in a cast, and we have to be particularly careful during these early days given that the break is above the knee. Every time I go to pick him up, change his diaper, carry him anywhere, sit him on the bed, lay him down… every movement has to be slow and gentle – a thoughtful ballet. Sleep training has also gone by the wayside for the time being. I feel I’ve accomplished almost nothing this week except practice patience.

And you know what? That part hasn’t been too hard.

I mean, sure, when he gives me all the tired signals and I put him in his crib and then he starts moaning and flapping and, finally, screaming, it’s still tiresome. When all I’m longing to do is overdose on decongestants and lie on the couch with a good book it’s really, really hard to find energy for baby play.

But then I look at his tiny body weighed down by all that plaster and 99% of the time patience is not that difficult to muster …

***

OK, all of the above was written before 10 a.m, during a brief and glorious half an hour when I was feeling pretty good about myself. You know, along the lines of: So I feel really sick and my baby’s got a broken leg and I’m making zero progress on publishing my book (what book, again? Did I write a book?) but, yeah, I’m rocking this patience thing. Someone should nominate me for sainthood. Or give me a medal. Or at least find me some ice cream.  

But that was this morning. This is this afternoon. This afternoon when my cold has reminded me that it’s not through with me yet, not by a long shot.

This afternoon with a baby who has slept for approximately 47 minutes all day and who is currently lying in his crib wide awake, screeching maniacally and yanking on the crib bars. (Did anyone else’s children basically stop napping as soon as they started eating solid food?)

This afternoon when I was going to finish this post by writing all this great stuff about how patience also seems to be rooted in empathy. But to write that stuff I sort of have to think it through first, and this afternoon I am a bear of very little brain indeed.

Oh, and also? This afternoon when the power tools next door just started up outside Dominic’s window.

I am not yet at the end of my patience rope. Not quite. But I can see that frayed knot from here.

When do you find yourself running short on patience? What is it about those situations (or people) that push your buttons?

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Conversations in hospitals

As you can probably imagine, Mike and I have talked about many things since Dominic’s accident. Much of what we’ve been mulling over is serious, hard stuff and nowhere near funny. These two snippets, however, I can share. They’re as close as we came to laughing this week.

In the doctor’s office, staring at Dominic’s X-rays on the computer screen while three specialists debated out in the hallway about whether Dominic needed surgery:

“I think I should quit the fruits of the spirit project,” I said.

“What?” Mike said.

“Think about it,” I said. “It took me more than a month after Dominic’s birth to untangle how I felt about the fact that maternal love hadn’t swamped me upon delivery. Then the month of joy was full of days that felt decidedly joyless. During the month of peace a friend dies and one of my worst fears fulfilled – now the month is ending with my baby in a cast. If I wanted to speak Christianese, I might say that I was under spiritual attack. Now, I sort of have to do the month of patience given what’s in front of us during Dominic’s recovery, but after that I think I should quit.”

Mike laughed.

“I wouldn’t laugh,” I said. “You know what comes after the month of patience? The month of kindness, then the month of faithfulness. I would want me to quit if I were you.”

Day three in the hospital. I’ve only left the room once each day, briefly, to go downstairs to the lobby and procure a caramel macchiato and a cream cheese muffin. Mike is trying to do some work and I’m on the bed pretending a toy bear is looking for honey in Dominic’s ear. When that stops working in about 23 seconds I will move on to fake sneezing, because that’s always good for a smile at the moment.

“Remember last time we were here?” I said.

“Yeah,” Mike said.

“I mean, I know you had an IV stuck in the back of your hand and all,” I said. “But once we knew the staph was under control it was sort of fun, wasn’t it? We ate French fries and ice cream sundaes. We got to hang together all week and work, then cuddle up in the evenings in the hospital bed and watch movies on the big screen TV.”

“And go for walks in the evening down to the nursery to look at all the babies,” Mike said. “And now we have one of our own.”

We both looked at our baby. He looked frustrated and needy.

“Last time was sort of like a little holiday, wasn’t it?” I said.

“Yeah,” Mike said. “It sort of was.”

Yes, folks. We were reminiscing about previous medical evacuations … wistfully. It was that sort of week.

We’re back in Laos now. Dominic seems to be doing OK. Not well, but OK. He still needs pain medication every couple of hours, which is a bit problematic because he’s decided he hates the taste of the infant nurofen (not that I blame him, it’s sickly sweet and orange-flavoured).

“You think I’m going to take that nurofen nicely? Think again.

Every time we try to dose him with nurofen it’s a trial that starts with locked lips and glaring and inevitably progresses to screaming and sticky orange goo all over his face and clothes. The strawberry-flavored panadol, however, he gulps down like a starving piglet and doesn’t let a single drop escape. This week has so ruined his taste buds for broccoli and carrots.

Now the countdown begins. We take Dominic back to Bangkok for more X-rays and (hopefully) the removal of his cast three weeks from yesterday. My parents will be in town then, so on that day we were hoping to land in Bangkok at 9:30, clear immigration and customs, get to the hospital, get X-rays, see the orthopedic specialists and get the cast off, see a pediatrician and get 6 month vaccinations (sorry little guy, you’re just having the worst run at the moment), and make it back to the airport by noon at the very latest so that we can fly back to Laos at 1:30 that afternoon rather than overnighting in Thailand.

After seeing the lines at Bangkok airport immigration yesterday I think our chances of all that unfolding on schedule are … (insert appropriate idiom here). I’m tempted to go with “a snowball’s chance in hell”, but Mike thinks we can do it. Anyone want to place a bet?

Finally, here’s how today’s introduction to rice cereal went:

“Oooh, what’s that? Maybe it’s strawberry-flavored Panadol!

“Yuck! Rice cereal tastes worse than nurofen!”

“Why are you torturing me like this? What did I ever do to you?”

“How many times do I have to say no?”

“Much better. You got any panadol around, though? Cuz I’m sorta hungry, you know.”

Heading back to Laos today

The doctors at the hospital felt confident enough to discharge us yesterday … until I mentioned that Dominic had started to cough and sneeze. As it turns out, he was coming down with his first major cold.

When the hospital relayed this information to the insurance company, they strongly recommended that we stay at least one more night. In fact, they stopped just short of telling us they wouldn’t fly us home yet even if we wanted to go. So we spent our third night in the hospital last night with the poor little fellow – this time trying to figure out how to prevent him from falling asleep only to wake up two or three minutes later gagging, choking, and coughing.

Why is it that in all the parenthood stories I’ve heard so far, I’ve never heard someone talk about how scary to watch a baby struggle to breathe when they have a cold? Or maybe I’m just finding everything scary at the moment.

Anyway, Dominic is breathing easier this morning and so are we. We’re still dosing him regularly with painkillers, but he seems to be fairly resigned to the cast on his leg and we’re seeing many more smiles.

And even some flapping…

We’re being discharged today and flying home this afternoon on the 1:30 flight. Thank you all again for all your comments on the blog and via facebook, as well as your emails. We haven’t been able to reply to many of these messages of support, but they have all been read and greatly appreciated!

More from Laos,

Lisa

Dominic’s leg: The ugly, the bad, and the good.

We’re here at Bumrungrad hospital in Bangkok. I tried to organize this into some sort of coherent update by good, bad and ugly categories, but I not feeling coherent enough myself yet to pull that off. So, in no particular order and with no particular artistry, here’s what’s going on.

Good: Mike and I are overwhelmed by the amount of love and support people are directing our way from around the world. We are so touched and feel so loved. Dominic, of course, has no idea that so many people are thinking of him and praying for him, but we sure do.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Bad: Despite our insurer’s best efforts, it took us more than 30 hours to get Dominic to Bangkok after the break. During that time we splinted his leg using cardboard and gauze (Mike’s dad did most of that, actually) and kept him as still as possible. We slept him on the change-table mat on the floor and I fed him by kneeling over him. I also managed to feed him on the plane without taking him out of the car seat (which I think I should get some sort of acrobatics award for, and maybe an honorable mention for sacrificing dignity). During these last 48 hours there have been several times when I really wished I had not slacked off on yoga after Dominic’s birth.

Good: This is our second medevac with our medical insurance company, International SOS, and they continue to impress (and when I say “impress” I mean: I would like to kiss every single employee of that company plus anyone who sits on the board).

They made probably a dozen phone calls to Laos to keep us updated on their efforts and a doctor walked us through how to splint the leg ourselves. They flew a doctor up to Laos to escort us back to Bangkok on the flight. We were met at the gate and whisked through the diplomatic channel at immigration and customs and then met at the curb of the airport by an ambulance and two nurses.

Bad: In the ambulance the nurses and the doctor who’d travelled with us were in frequent communication with the team waiting for us at the hospital. They told me they didn’t want me to feed him after 4pm because they’d scheduled him for surgery at 8pm, and then they put the sirens on the ambulance in an effort to get us to the hospital faster so that I could feed before the deadline.

Running the ambulance sirens because the baby needed to kin nom (drink milk) would have been funny … except that it wasn’t. Also, the sirens were a nice try, but they didn’t make much of a difference in the middle of Bangkok traffic jams. We sat on the freeway within sight of the hospital for more than 30 minutes (which, if things have been dire, would have been mind-blowingly agonizing).

Good: Bumrungrad is the nicest hospital I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure of spending time in. The place looks more like a nice hotel than a hospital and the staff seem phenomenally efficient. With one exception (see the next “ugly” point) I’ve never had a moment’s doubt that we are receiving top of the line medical care here.

Good: Dominic had been X-rayed and seen by two specialists within an hour of walking into the hospital. During the first consult they told us that they would take Dominic to surgery, set the leg under a general anesthetic, and put him in a spica cast (a both-leg rib-height body cast). Then they changed their mind. They could set the leg without surgery, they told us. This initially seemed like good news, but…

Ugly: They didn’t mention anything about a game plan for pain relief. When I strongly requested they make such a game plan the nurse went away and came back with … oral paracetamol – the same thing I’d been giving him for the previous 36 hours. I argued that they should at the very least give him paracetamol and codeine, but the doctors told me that they only ever use paracetamol or a general anesthetic – nothing in between – and they had no experience with giving codeine to infants so they just wanted to “do it natural.” As if there is anything “natural” about breaking the end off your femur. I was so angry. Mike had to be the one to take Dominic in to get the leg set. I couldn’t face it.

Ugly: The break is bad and complicated – all the way through the femur, right above the knee and in the growth plate area. For those of you who haven’t had a crash course in orthopedics lately, that’s bad news when it happens to a baby at this stage because there’s a chance that it’ll disrupt normal growth patterns. Dominic will have to be monitored annually by X-ray for the next few years (1 yr, 2 yr), then every two years (4,6,8) and then annually again up through the teens.

Good: The break was set by 6:30pm (less than 2.5 hours after our arrival at the hospital). And in the end they did not have to put Dominic in a spica cast, just a hip to toe cast, and that will probably only have to stay on for three weeks. X-rays today reveal that the set helped realign – even my untrained eyes can see the difference and the doctors seem pleased. They also told us that the specialist team met again and they think the chance of us having ongoing problems has dropped slightly. They’re not sure, but they think the break occurred just above (by 1 cm or less) the growth plate. If that’s the case, the long-term prognosis is better.

Good: Dominic slept quite well last night, all things considered, and has been relatively content today with only a couple of crying jags. We’ve even had some smiles. It is a huge relief to see him in less pain.

Good: Despite how harrowing the last two days have been, we remain acutely grateful that we have the resources and the networks that allow us to receive such excellent medical attention. These have been some of the worst days of my life, I cannot really fathom how much harder they would have been without the resources that are available to us.

So that’s some of the good the bad and the ugly from this end. To finish, here’s the “lovely”. The insurance company had flowers and a teddy bear delivered to the hospital. Dominic was a fan … of the ferns, anyway.

Love and thanks from Bangkok,

Lisa, Mike & Dominic

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Say a prayer for Dominic

After yesterdays post when I talked about my fear of what if’s, today has been an unhappy irony. Mike’s mother fell on our stairs this morning while she was carrying Dominic. She is shaken and bruised. After a trip to the local hospital here (thankfully the X-Ray machine was working today and the technician was at work) it turns out that Dominic has a broken femur.

Our emergency medical insurance company is going to get us to Bangkok as soon as possible tomorrow – maybe even by sending an air ambulance. Under the telephone advice of a doctor in Thailand we’ve splinted Dominic’s leg using cardboard and gauze, another pediatrician friend in Australia provided advice on pain relief (thanks Asha!), and we’re doing everything we can to keep him as comfortable as possible.

If you could say a prayer for Dominic – it could be a very long night (or several). If you could say a prayer for Mike and I – it could be a very long night (or several). And if you could say a prayer for Mike’s mother – she has been sick for most of the time she’s been here, and now this. Finally, if you have any prayers left over, will you send up a quick petition that this is the worst wedding anniversary Mike and I ever have?

Thanks,

Lisa

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Tough Love Take Two

Six weeks ago I tried to let Dominic “cry it out” for the first time. I was so tired that day that I decided to lie down next to him and see if he could calm down if I petted his belly instead of actually holding him. The experiment was not what exactly what you might call a success. It lasted a grand total of 4 minutes and netted me 29 more minutes of hysterical howling after I gave in and picked him up. I didn’t think I’d be trying controlled crying again anytime soon.

That was last month.

This is this month.

Until this month Dominic had been a relatively easy baby. I mean, I don’t have anything to compare him to, but I suspect that I don’t really have much to complain about (not that that’s ever stopped me). As long as someone stayed nearby to stick his pacifier back in whenever it fell out, Dominic would settle himself to sleep in his cot about 70% of the time. When he was about 10 weeks old he mostly started sleeping from about 10pm to 5am with only brief nocturnal wakeups to ask for his pacifier back.

Then he turned four months old.

Seemingly overnight, things changed. His Royal Babyness didn’t want to be put down anymore. Ever. He began insisting on being fed somewhere between midnight and 2am every night. He started to cry whenever Mike or I disappeared from his line of sight. He started to cry whenever we handed him to someone else (and sometimes even when other people merely looked at him). He started to cry whenever we tried to get him to go to sleep.

The hysteria at bedtime started around the time he caught his first cold, so we began walking him to sleep. We thought he’d settle back into his easier former patterns as soon as he felt better.

He didn’t. Two weeks later we were still walking him to sleep every night and for every daytime nap. He never napped for more than forty-five minutes at a time. Whenever I tried to get him down he’d wiggle and fuss and throw his head back and gaze around in the manner of a pudgy, horizontal meercat. He’d only drift off if I were singing to him.

When I got bored with Old MacDonald and his farm full of rabid roosters, starving kitties and mangy dogs I started singing Hush Little Baby. I don’t know anything past the first couple of lines, so my version goes something like this:

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird,
And if that mockingbird don’t sing
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring,
And if that diamond ring don’t shine
Mama will buy you the whole diamond mine,
And if that diamond mine don’t produce
Mama will buy you a big fat moose,
And if that fat moose don’t taste fine
Mama will buy you a case of red wine…

I’d make up this sort of nonsense until his eyes rolled back in his head and he went limp, then I’d wait a couple more minutes – the pain in my back and shoulders growing by the second – before easing him gently into his cot, unpeeling my hands from him finger by finger and praying that he stayed asleep.

One night last week though, after he’d gotten us up to feed him/walk him back to sleep at midnight and 2 AM and cried for his pacifier every forty five minutes until 5 AM when he decided that he was hungry again, I was done with this new normal. I was so done that I told Mike during the wee dark hours of that awful morning that I didn’t know why we’d decided to have children and that I wanted to leave the baby with him and get on a plane to Australia. I was scarily close to being serious.

Since being done with the whole motherhood thing wasn’t really a viable option, however, I decided that I was definitely done walking the floor with twenty pounds of grumpy baby when I was pretty sure he was neither sick nor teething. My emotions couldn’t take it and neither could my back. Despite the dread I felt at the prospect of letting him cry it out, it was time for tough love take two.

Operation tough love take two commenced that very morning with Dominic’s first nap. I put him in his cot and I gave him his pacifier, his cuddly toys, and his blanket. I sat down in a chair by his bed where he could see me. I told him that it was time he figured out how to go to sleep without being carried around the room.

He let me know he wasn’t a fan of this plan, and his crying quickly escalated to red-faced, hysterical thrashing. I held my ground. I sang to him. I patted him. I handed him back his pacifier, but I did not pick him up, and after twenty minutes of theatrics he fell asleep.

Then. Less than a minute after his eyes had closed…

Our neighbors decided to harvest coconuts and they started falling onto the tin roof right outside his bedroom window.

Here I must pause and address those of you who have suggested that it is good for babies to learn to sleep through loud noises. That might hold with regards to the sounds of voices, traffic, and even the occasional dog bark. It does not hold for the sound of a coconut falling on a tin roof. A baby’s brain is understandably hard-wired to interpret that sort of sudden, intense noise as danger. This is because only people who did wake up when they heard that sort of noise lived to pass on their genes – the happy slumberers were all eaten by coconut-wielding saber-tooth tigers.

Needless to say, Dominic woke up. Needless to say I was livid.

I moved him from his crib into the small travel cot in our bedroom and started all over again. This time it took forty minutes of crying/singing for him to go back to sleep.

But this story has a happy ending. After the first day of crying every time I put him down, Dominic started to go down again with only minimal fussing, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer. He’s been happier and less clingy, and I’ve been feeling less exhausted, desperate, and tempted to leave him with Mike and head to the airport. For now, we’re good.

I have a nasty feeling, however, that when the time comes for Tough Love Take Three: Whereupon We Stop Handing Him His Pacifier When He Loses It For the Tenth Time in Two Minutes, all may not be such smooth sailing. Stay tuned.

Mamas and Papas, got any Tough Love stories to share?

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