Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adventures with two

I thought I was brilliant at kid juggling--two is a whole new level. I should have expected that. After a seriously difficult first few weeks we finally began to settle down and deal with the unique challenges posed by a second, very different child.

Firstly, my days of coffee chugging are indefinitely postponed. What I tried and failed to give up in Lent I have been forced to give up after Georgie's birth. Georgie began to appear colicky by three weeks and by five weeks I was so fed up I told my midwife about it. She suggested I give up my coffee habit. I was rather skeptical that coffee was the cause since it never seemed to bother Theo, but even one day off coffee brought miraculous silence to the evenings.

Turns out my little princess is of the fairy tale variety--delicate enough to feel a pea under her many mattresses. She's incredibly sensitive. A change in light, position, noise will easily wake her. We can't put the stopper in the kettle without waking her. And very sharp or loud noises make her burst into tears. She's also very sensitive to our moods. If we're stressed or frustrated she instantly begins to fuss.

She is so different than Theo was that I feel like I'm starting from scratch-- except this time I have a rambunctious toddler creating chaos ever time my back is turned. Georgie is not only far more sensitive than Theo was but none of the things that used to calm him work for her. We've had a terrible time introducing dummies. Of the plethora of infant size dummies I have tried she likes exactly one and I haven't a clue where to get one the same shape since it was given me by a friend. However, whereas Theo hated the swing, Georgie generally loves it.

She also hates sleeping on her back which has presented me with a serious dilemma. For those out-of-the-loop it is now considered a great parenting sin to put a baby to bed on her tummy since it is believed that this is a risk factor for SIDS. (When I was babysitting infants as a teen it was considered wrong to put them to sleep on their backs lest they should spit up and choke.) Theo was easily comforted by swaddling so it was never a problem. I swaddle him and put him on his back and go to sleep with an easy conscience. Georgie likes to be swaddled too (thank God) but it is rare that swaddling will keep her settled enough to sleep on her back. So do I follow the rules and risk killing her in a sleep-deprived rage or let her sleep on her tummy the way she wants to and risk SIDS?

My very wise midwife is convinced that tummy sleeping has nothing to do with SIDS, but rather the chemicals and fire retardants in commercial mattresses which a child inhales more of in their sleep if they are on their tummy. Scientists say that babies sleep more deeply on their tummies and if they are prone to sleep apnea (where they forget to breathe for a minute or two) they may completely forget to breathe and die as a result. Therefore we should keep our children as badly rested as we are--just in case. I'm finding I put her on her tummy a lot though I will try her on her back if she seems really out of it. I console myself with the fact that she actually sleeps in our room and very often right next to me in our bed so I am likely to notice if something is wrong.

Adding to the chaos around here is the introduction of the bunk bed as Theo's new place to sleep at night. We had half-heartedly tried to get him to sleep there at nap times for a while and only ever put him down in it if he was already asleep but he'd been so traumatised when we took the side of the crib off that we were reluctant to put him in the bunk bed at night. Given enough time in the crib he always fell asleep on his own-- but it's been a battle with the bed, At first he was scared if he woke up there. Then just scared if he went to bed there. Now he's perfectly happy to get out of bed, switch the light on and run out into the kitchen with a money grin and a giggle. He knows better though and if we ignore him long enough he will occasionally go back to be on his own. But he falls asleep late as a result.

We're also trying to potty train him which is proving a laborious task.He seemed a little interested at first, but quickly discovered how boring it was. The trouble is that my husband has now completely lost patience with dirty diapers since the one or two initial successes and got very angry when Theo refused to sit on the potty and then pooed in his pyjamas the minute our back was turned so now he seems to think going poo is bad and he isn't allowed to do it. We'll be lucky if we make any progress at all in that department this year.

It's partlyfor that reason and partly because Georgie is so sensitive that I've begun something I had heard about before and thought was completely nuts: Elimination Communication, or EC--also known as infant potty training. I was utterly gobsmacked by how easy it is. I thought it would be a pointless, messy, waste of time. But it's not like that at all. The theory behind it is that infants are born with an awareness of their elimination needs and have the instinct not to soil themselves-- they do not have much control over it however, and communicate using various signals that they need to go. They squirm or grunt or fuss or wake suddenly from a nap. So you pop them on the potty when you think they might need to go and cue them with a "pssss" noise and believe it or not-- it works! As they grow they retain their awareness of their elimination needs and soon associate the cueing noise and the position you place them in with the sensation of going to the bathroom. They wait for it. And soon they are old enough to learn the sign language to tell you they need to go--voila! Children who are conventionally potty trained however, lose their bodily awareness some time in the first year making potty training ridiculously difficult. We end up with Theo, completely unaware he's going-- and far too busy playing to care anyway.

Originally i chose to start EC with Georgie as a means to spark Theo's interest, but now I've started it I actually prefer to using diapers most of the time. Of course I still keep her in diapers-- I just pop her on the potty when I think she needs to go and she almost always does. There are exceptions. I don't get up at night to take her to the potty (I'm not crazy) and when we are out and about I just let her go in her nappy and make the cueing noise in her ear if she does. But while we are at home I try to pay attention to her signals and use the potty frequently. It's bizarrely gratifying to watch her on the little blue potty grunting away.

I've had some scathing criticism about it. Namely that infant potty training is really just training the parent-- which is utterly ridiculous. As if responding to my daughter's need to use the toilet is letting her train me.First of all-- she's two months old and has no concept of manipulation and therefore cannot "train" me. Secondly, I feed my daughter when she is hungry and change her when she is dirty and burp her when she has gas--why is responding to her need for the toilet any different? I don't mean to imply that those who use diapers are somehow neglectful of their child's needs-- we do what we can. It's a busy modern world and plenty of people haven't the time or energy. I personally won't get out of bed at night for it. Diapers are just fine. But having a clean bottom is still a basic hygenic need and whether you choose to fulfill that need by changing your baby's nappy or putting her on the potty is really up to you.

So the chaos has increased in my life. All kinds of new adventures...