One of these recent weekends, I finally popped out of the house to go out and about with one of my little friends. We met for lunch at Noodles (yay!) and while we caught up and I nommed on my Pesto Cavatappi, a mom with her two kids set up shop in the booth next to us. She set up her boy, smaller than Ollie, on a booster seat in the booth, and had her daughter on the other side and she went to get the drinks.
In her absence, something happened and the little boy fell, roly poly pell mell tumble bumble off his booster seat, off the booth’s seat and bam! onto the floor.
My lunchmate, like lightening, swooped in to pick the boy up, make sure he wasn’t hurt, and give him some emergency “it’s okays,” while I jumped up to find the boy’s mommy.
On my way home, thinking about my evolution as a grownup was unavoidable. I’ve known this friend since we were 15-ish, which puts us at nearly 20 years of buddyhood. 15 years ago, we may have snickered at the boy who took a tumble. 10 years ago, we might have looked down our noses at the mom, in an OMG, what a dullard that woman is to leave her kid there! sort of way. 5 years ago, I might have said something snarky like, “see! this is why I don’t have kids! You can’t even get a drink without them getting into a pickle!”
None of those scenarios involved getting involved, actually stepping in to the situation. But not now. Both moms ourselves now, we went into emergency mode. Doing what we can for this little boy who took a spill.
Alas. This realization of evolution got me thinking even further into my own evolution through parenthood.
Before Ollie was born, we had a vision of how it would be. As we planned it, I would have maintained my status as a full-time career girl, happily dropping my smiling child off at Daycare with his bottles of formula and picking him up to play for a couple hours at the end of the day. What happened? Completely the opposite and I’m continally amazed at our development as The Parents. How I’ve come from expecting full time daycare, exclusive formula feeding and being The Modern Do-It-All Mom to Stay-At-Home-Attached-Mom, breastfeeding, babywearing and co-sleeping.
So much of that was influenced by Ollie’s early birth.
To our surprise, we tend to lean more towards Attachment Parenting. It isn’t something we read about and decided “this is how we’re going to go about this,” it was more of a “follow our instincts” thing and then realized it has a name. Attachment Parenting doesn’t enforce Cry It Out methods and I “wear” my children in slings or wraps to allow them the closeness they crave while actually doing things. We never really expected our children to mold to our lifestyle as newborns and infants; we knew our lives would change around them and the idea of putting them on a schedule (some schedules are very strict in their “eat, play, sleep” cycles) never really occurred to us. So, as infants, I feed on demand, I don’t force them to play when they’re awake, nor do I keep them awake because it’s not time for a nap. And in a town where co-sleeping has a bad reputation and at the risk of sounding too granola, we co-sleep when they’re just brand new to the world and adjusting to life.
Before Ollie was born, I really, really didn’t think we’d ever do something as outlandish as co-sleep. I remember telling Matty about “those people” and saying without a doubt, my kid won’t be sleeping in my bed, I may have even used the phrase, “that’s just weird.” Unless he’s sick, there would be no such thing happening; I mean, babies are supposed to be in a crib. That’s what they’re there for, right? But then we did have a baby who came home “sick” and we did a little bit of research and found that co-sleeping, either by bed-sharing with the child, or with them in your room in his own bassinet, actually has research behind it that shows that it’s okay to do, and actually has benefits. Neither one of us have felt comfortable actually bed-sharing with a tiny baby, with no protection from roll-overs or blanket suffocation, but we do feel secure with them in their own bed between us. And within two months of coming home, when the nighttime need for food is down to once a night, both boys have easily transitioned to his bassinet.
This may have begun out of sheer convenience for us, this Attachment Parenting. Plainly the optimal choice for lazy parents is to feed your child at 2am in your own bed with a tv on instead of getting up completely and sitting in an uncomfortable rocking chair in an entirely separate room. It’s easier on the heart to not have a kid spending time crying it out. It’s more convenient to wear a baby and provide “hands free snuggling” while getting things done around the house. I’ve worn Tucker in a sling while bouncing on a yoga ball feeding Ollie breakfast; that’s the sort of happy medium that only a “wearer” could accomplish, since both boys needed something completely different from me at the same time.
But it also has a lot to do with Ollie’s rough start. With his first months spent in an isolette, miles away from his parents, hooked up to things, we wanted to erase his early birth and long hospital stay as much as possible. Replacing trauma with closeness and snuggles seemed a good way to reinforce to him that the world doesn’t have to be an isolating scary experience. So Ollie spent his first months at home being, well, I suppose some might say “coddled.” He was held, a lot. He ate when he wanted, slept when he was tired. For a long time, Ollie kept that newborn schedule, sleeping most of the day away, waking up to eat and look around for a bit. There was no way I had the heart to look at the clock and say to a recently-home-from-the-fight-of-his-life Ollie, “Okay, Kid, you’ve been up for two hours, I’m going to make you go to sleep and if you scream because you don’t want to, then that’s too bad. Self-soothe, baby.” Or if he was showing signs of hunger, I wasn’t about to be all, “Dude, you just ate an hour ago, I’m not feeding you until 2 hours pass. Deal with it, infant.” He fought hard to stay alive, it was the least I could do to provide whatever needs he needed met, whenever he needed them.
And that worked just fine for us with Ollie. He’s well adjusted and thriving. A friend recently asked “is he always this happy?” and, yes, he is a remarkably happy kid. He’s never been bothered by his delays. He’s not spoiled, he’s adapting beautifully in his role as Big Brother, he doesn’t have huge separation issues, he happily plays by himself and with us in child-directed play, and most importantly, he’s not still in our room. He moved into his own room and crib when he was 8 months old and had reliably dropped his nighttime feeding. He slept on his own like a champ at that point and at 26 months actual, and 23 months at home with us, he has yet to spend any time Crying it Out on my watch. (Although there are certainly days where I wish I believed that Crying it Out was the best solution). That NICU teaching of “crying burns too many calories” still sticks with us and we snuggle him to drowsy at naps and nighttime. We’re working on getting him asleep on his own, and we’ve come a long way. He’s able to fall asleep in his bed with the door open, radio on and cats coming in and out, as long as Someone is sitting with him. And to be clear, it’s not a frustration for me that he doesn’t go to sleep on his own, and to be completely honest, I probably wouldn’t have started any sleep “training” if Tucker hadn’t been expected. And, now that he’s walking, snuggle time with Ollie is getting more and more precious, generally needed only when takes a header or pinches a finger.
So Attached Parents we became and we continue it with Tucker. Maybe even moreso with Tuck, he is worn more often while I play with Ollie. With his Ollie’s oxygen and apnea monitor, wearing just wasn’t easily accomplished. If I did put him in a sling, I also wore a backpack with his equipment, including oxygen tank. Sure I sorta felt cool like The Rocketeer, but with a 10 pound baby on the front and 20 pounds of equipment, it was just too much of workout.
So while it’s impossible to fairly compare these boys to each other, I’m finding it interesting how our parenting style is evolving to keep these boys happy, to make sure they feel secure and loved. I’m sure this is something that new parents of more than one do on a daily basis, just because we got one child through to toddlerhood doesn’t mean those same methods will work for the next.
What we assume will work for Tucker because it worked for Ollie just isn’t so and I wonder how far we’ll get into this before we fully understand these are two completely separate children and won’t automatically assume that Tucker will respond the same was as Ollie had. For the small things, Tucker loves any vibrating feature on his “furniture.” He loves the vibrating bouncer we have and his bassinet will soothe him automatically if you just flip that little switch that turns on that motor.
Ollie hated to vibrate. He’d cry immediately.
Whereas Tucker loves to vibrate, he doesn’t like to swing so much. Ollie loved to swing; spent many hours napping while that thing was on high; full-tilt and high speed. We had to stealthily turn it back on. If it stopped, Ollie would wake up immediately, even if it had only been 15 minutes, crying and in a tizzy.
I honestly didn’t realize that Tucker didn’t like to swing until about a week ago. I thought that because it was the key to Ollie naps that of course it would be also the key to Tucker naps. I didn’t notice that he’d wake up after 5 minutes of swinging in just as much of a tizzy as Ollie did when it stopped. Call me silly, but this “what worked for one doesn’t mean it’ll work for two” concept is a bit of a confounding idea.
In the larger realm, Ollie’s experience is incomparable. And as Tucker gets stronger, stays up longer, morphs into a person, it’s hard not to see how challenged Ollie has been since Day One. How tough Ollie had it with just growing through his baby-hood. This “typical” infant development is another one of those ideas that’s hard to wrap my head around.
Ollie wasn’t able to hold his head up until he was nine months old. His muscles just didn’t cooperate with each other to let him do things easily. Things that are supposed to come naturally to babies didn’t come naturally for Ollie. Just getting the hang of holding his head up at nine months (six adjusted) was a big sign that his Gross Motor Skills were lagging, a fairly common issue with micro-preemies.
With Tucker, I hesitated to start working on Tummy Time because Ollie taught me that infants hate it. Hate it with the heat of a thousand burning suns. Hate it so passionately that one is afraid a neighbor would call Child Protective Services because he’s screaming so hard during it. His body just wasn’t making it easy on him. But, Tucker, well, that’s just not the case. He sort of likes being on his belly checking out the landscape from a lower vantage point. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise.
(Oh, and can you tell these babies are brothers? They look exactly the same, right?)
When Tucker was first born, like before we left the hospital first born, we marveled at how easy it is to feed him. No special positions, no flow controlling on our part, just pop the bottle in and let him go to town. No choking. No sputtering. No scary heart rate drops; no need for a heart monitor.
When he first came home, we commented on how big he seemed; at 6 pounds 7 ounces at birth, he was a pound and a half bigger than Ollie was when we brought him home.
As he gets bigger, I think “he can’t possibly have outgrown this outfit already” as I try to shove his chubby legs into a too-small sleeper. At two months, Tucker is wearing 6 month size clothes, while Ollie took his time growing out of things.
At his most recent weigh in, Tucker weighed over 13 pounds. My little almost-exclusively-breast-fed-baby is a fatty. Ollie didn’t weigh in at 13 pounds until much later, and I don’t think he’ll ever be classified as a “fatty.”
To be clear, any comparisons I make aren’t comparisons between these boys. It’s more of a comparison between the Preemie Experience vs the Almost-Term Experience. This growth, the simplicity of trusting of Tucker’s body to do things the “proper” way…it’s all so different from the experience we had with Ollie.
If this is the way we go about parenting two children, I have to say I’m glad the Preemie Experience was the one that kicked us off. I’m glad we have Ollie to teach us how to be parents. His inherently sweet disposition has only reinforced the ideas of Attached Parenting that newborns can’t be spoiled by picking them up if they cry or that an infant can’t “manipulate” his parents to get what he wants. If what he wants in merely comfort, love and snuggles, he trusts that we will provide them and it hasn’t created a monster. But seeing the huge differences between a Preemie and a Termie are enough to reassure that parenting doesn’t have to be a worrisome scary experience just to make sure he thrived. I’m thankful that we didn’t have a Termie first and are going through the comparisons backward. Had I known the standard timeline of a baby ‘s development, Ollie’s experience would have broken my heart even more.
So, there you have it. A long post about things I’ve been thinking about. Ollie’s fight for normalcy and Tucker’s delightfully average experience. Two entirely different children with two entirely different introductions to the world. Our evolution of the parents of these two children, kicked off by one rocky introduction, evolving along with the aspects our Tucker will teach us.
*By the way, this post changed direction about 4 times in the week it’s taken me to write it.