Frazzled? Stressed? Tired? Try taking a walk

Yesterday was so hard for me. Probably because I'm awfully tired. Both of the girls are waking up throughout the night. We have them on an early bedtime schedule, which is a huge accomplishment. Most nights both are in bed by 8, often times it's 7:30. I've heard of some parents getting their children to bed by 6:30... So our current state of affairs might seem on the later side to some, or maybe on the normal side. But bedtime is something that’s been a long uphill bedtime around here! When Catherine was an infant, she would routinely stay up until 11, 12, 1am. Eventually, we had to work out a system where I stayed up (watching shows to help me deal), while Noah would go to sleep at a normal hour so he could continue functioning at work. Anyways, over the course of a year, we worked her bedtime back until around 9, and it was solidly there until Frances was born.

Frances was a complete mystery baby after our experience with C. The first few weeks of her life, we were completely besides ourselves about how to get her to sleep. No amount of rocking seem to calm her. In fact, it seemed to make her more upset. She wouldn’t nurse to comfort, let alone to sleep. But she clearly wasn’t happy to be awake late, like Catherine had been. Finally, we recalled out of our sleep-deprived memories that we had heard of parents just laying their children down and letting them fall asleep of their own accord. We decide to give it a shot. One night, I took Frances into the bedroom, which was dark and quiet, and essentially wrapped her in a swaddle, and laid her in bed. She fell asleep. Peacefully. Without a struggle. It was... Miraculous. Very soon, she was sleeping through the night, in her own bed, often up to 10 hours at a time, until she turned 4 months old.

Ah...the famous four-month sleep regression.

Yeah, that hit with a vengeance. Since then, Frances hasn't slept through the night. And to any parents out there jealous of our first three months of sleep, well, let me just say that getting a solid night’s sleep for 3 months, and then suddenly waking up every 2 hours is no picnic. And we didn’t have the “new parent” adrenaline to help us out. It was rough.

At some point, I figured she was probably growing and needed to nurse more, so that’s how I consoled myself with the situation. Of course introducing solids crossed my mind, because now pediatricians are recommending starting solids at 4 months. But we started C on solids at around 5, maybe 6 months, and we had a real struggle with her taking to food. Honestly, it's still a struggle. I'm just happy if she eats, and I try not to think too hard about pushing those veggies because it's an impossible task that I'm really just not going to fight right now. She drinks her Ovaltine and let's just cross our fingers that those vitamins are legit.

Hesitant to begin another battle over food, I held off on starting Frances on solids. It didn’t seem worth the effort. But then I got hit with the flu (which, this year, is a particularly nasty one). I was sick for over a week and running a pretty high fever. Frances seemed a little ornery, but she wasn’t exhibiting any obvious flu symptoms. In my feverish state, I began freaking out that I was losing my milk supply and she wasn't getting enough to eat. I frantically sent Noah running to the store for baby food. She ate an entire pouch in her first “taste” of solid food. She has consistently eaten about a pouch+ each meal (3x a day) since. One day, I whirred up a whole pear and a handful of blueberries, and she ate that in one sitting. She literally cannot eat enough. I cannot make enough food to keep up with her consumption. She also will eat anything: pureed blueberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, kiwi, spinach, kale, avocados, chicken noodle soup, beans, lentils, squash, sweet potatoes… Anything anything I've put in front of her, she has eaten. (OK, OK. The kiwi kale combo didn’t go down terribly smoothly.)

Here's the kicker: The more she eats, the more she seems to nurse.

Beneath the Crust: Starting Solids

I don't understand! I thought babies were supposed to sleep better when they started solids! Lies! I think she nurses double the amount she used to. And so, even though she's eating more than any adult in the house, she still is nursing all night long.

Wow. All that to say, we're still not getting solid sleep around here. I'm also finding that the girls are both at developmental stages that demand a lot of my attention. They don't really last longer than 10 minutes doing anything on their own before breaking down in tears or something. That basically gives me enough time to grab something to eat, or take a shower, or get dressed, or get some laundry going, or pick up some toys, but not all of it... Just one of those things. So I might start by putting my makeup on and then think I can go ahead and get dressed, but psych! An outbreak of tears interrupts the attempt to get dressed. At this rate, it takes a couple hours to get ready for the day. It’s a brave new world for me.

Similarly, things in the house just aren't getting done like they used to. I was really discouraged yesterday when I sat on the bed and looked at the box of Mega Blocks already dumped out in the bathroom. The box of bristle blocks was dumped out in the living room, there’s a backpack on the kitchen floor, and a toothbrush behind the bedroom door, and three different piles of laundry that are sorted but not put away, and then that pile of clothes that came out of the laundry still with stains on it...

So I felt sorry for myself and drank two cups of coffee and wished it wasn’t Lent so I could eat some chocolate and then I texted Maria and Sophie about how discouraged I was and how I wanted to cry. They sent me some powerful words of encouragement.

Maria: “The struggle is real. This is the phase of being a SAHM with young young kids. It’s so hard!” And again: “You have to adjust your expectations day by day. All of a sudden you’ll have a good day and get so much done and you feel like a million bucks.” (She’s totally right, by the way.)

“It’s partly a phase, but also part of life as a mama,” Sophie sent. “Fit in little prayers when you can! Grace goes a long way.”

Considerably cheered by their words, I decided to go out on a walk.

Being out in nature has a way of resetting your attitude, of helping you put things back in perspective.

I'm fortunate to live in a place like Florida, where the weather is basically always nice enough to go on a walk and enjoy the outdoors. Yesterday was especially perfect. It was slightly overcast, low 80s, with a gorgeous gentle breeze. We have a set of lakes and bridges just down the street from us (literally, I can see them from the driveway). I usually try to walk around one lake, sometimes two and maybe if I'm powering we can get three in before a complete meltdown.

Yesterday, the palm trees were rustling in the breeze, the water was rippling, the birds were singing. An alligator swam towards the shore, so we scooted along the path a little faster. Vultures were soaring in the sky above, scooping down right over our heads, and then taking off again. “Come back, birds!” Catherine was calling. We passed the bridge where there are usually fish, but the water is really low this time of year and we couldn't see any swimming. There was a set of desolate trees with a group of crows in and around them, calling out with their grim caw. It seemed like the opening shot of a horror film.

Then two of those crazy cormorants broke the scene, bickering, and one dove down into the water. (Cormorants are these birds that seem to fall out of the sky out of nowhere, drop down to the water, dive and disappear for long periods of time. And even though you watch and watch for them to come up for air, they stay down so long that you begin to wonder whether you really saw what you saw.) And of course, as we continued walking, a sweet little turtle was sunning its itself on a little plank by the edge of the water. Although maybe it wasn't so sweet. It could have been a snapping turtle.

We walked around the lake, and Catherine collected her sticks and pine cones. We got out at one point and sat on a bench so I could nurse Frances and Catherine could play in some dirt. Besides warning C off the piles of fire ant hills every dozen feet, our thirty minutes spent in nature was a calming venture. It provided an opportunity to relax, a space to meditate. It pulled me out of myself, and in a real way. I was prompted to reflect on the natural world, the cycles of life, the order, the harmony, and the discord. I thought on my own place in the universe, on the things that are smaller than I am, and the things that are greater. It was a small change of course in an otherwise chaotic morning, but it was enough to reset the day.