Justine Lorelle

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I think, like most people, I had an idea of what motherhood would be like before I became a mother. (I initially wrote “a very specific idea,” but, if I’m honest, I think I knew on most levels that I probably had no idea what I was getting myself into.)

And, before I get into the subject of this post, I want to confirm that I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love being a mother. We’re on clear on that, right? I feel obligated to reinforce that I do before I say what I’m about to say next.

Because sometimes being a mother makes me sad.

Whoa, whoa, WHOA, you say. Motherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to a woman, right? How can you possibly not love every second?

Well, I’m really sorry to be the one to tell you this, but, besides that statement being entirely untrue for some people, it’s also impossible for it to be true for every single woman every second of the time.

And I’m not even talking about postpartum depression, which, I’m told, is a whole other bear. I’ve been fortunate thus far that I haven’t really dealt with that, at least not in full force. My sadness is rather run-of-the-mill, I’m afraid. So sorry.

But whether or not it requires a diagnosis, my sadness is just as real. Because, even though I love being a mother, it is not always easy.

Being a mother means giving up a lot of yourself. It always makes me think of this line from The Bridges of Madison County:

“You don’t understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops.”

Because, you guys? That is IT. And even though it’s not always a bad thing, there is always a level of mourning when it comes to letting a part of yourself go.

And besides the existential struggle, there are parts of being a mom that just kind of suck. Your time is not your own. Your body does weird things. You can’t do everything you want to do. You often have to go into hiding to breastfeed. You can’t eat whatever you want to eat. You are almost always tired. You are more often than not covered in some kind of bodily fluid. You get screamed at (a lot) by a tiny, irrational dictator despite your every attempt to please them.

The good part is that your baby usually finds a way to make it up to you (those smiles and sweet coos are life-affirming at times), but the fact remains that often those sucky moments still just suck.

But wait, you say, isn’t this a blog post about joy?

YES. But more than that, it’s about the choice of happiness.

Remember almost four (!!) years ago when I decided to stop being unhappy? That sounds silly, I know. I even acknowledged the silliness when I said it. The Happiness Project was less about truly never feeling unhappiness and more about make a concerted effort whenever possible to choose joy. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found the more you practice mental discipline, the easier it can become over time.

I’ve found this practice helpful in a lot of areas of my life, from friendships to marriage, from running a marathon to having a baby. I’m not sure I would have been able to enjoy pregnancy as much as I did if not for my previous practice in seeking the good.

And now I find myself putting it into practice again as a new mother.

Before Vivi arrived, I would spend a lot of time thinking about when she was finally here. And I made a promise to myself: I promised to enjoy everything, from the lack of sleep to the discomfort to the frustration.

Because this was my parental rite of passage.

These were the things that bonded millions of parents across time and space. These were the moments that plenty of people who wish to have a baby would give anything to have. So who was I to take my baby’s 3 a.m. shrieks for granted? Who was I to bristle at irrational tantrums when she hasn’t mastered a new skill? Who was I to throw up my hands in frustration after the sixth spit-up and subsequent outfit change of the day?

And besides, who would I be helping if I did any of those things anyway?

So, instead, I shifted my focus. I learned to live in the moment when things were good and to look at the progress when things weren’t. I learned to appreciate the fact that even the worst moments will make for a good story some day and to tell my war stories with a laugh and an eye roll — my baby might be trying to kill me…but at least my tiny tyrant is adorable!

I also think it helped that I was mentally prepared for struggles. I expected frustration and exhaustion and tears (hers and mine). I expected to feel at some point that I had made a terrible mistake or, at the very least, to mourn my less-tethered childless life. What I’m saying is, I deliberately kept my expectations low. But I’m very grateful that I can honestly say I’ve loved every stage of getting to know Vivi. I expected to grit my teeth through her newborn-ness and to tolerate her fussy infant months, but the fact is that I daily find myself in awe of something about this wonderful little person I get to raise.

Maybe she really is just that wonderful (I mean, I know I think she is). But maybe I’ve just gotten better at focusing on what’s wonderful about her.

Because, most of the time, being a mother is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

I get to watch her tackle new challenges and develop an ever-sunnier personality. I get to revel in first smiles, giggles, babbles, and kisses. I get to celebrate her new milestones and soothe her pint-sized frustrations. I get to discover the world again through her big blue eyes. I get to wake up every day and be Vivi’s favorite person. I get to be Vivi’s mama.

And, for me, there are few greater joys than that.

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Joey, Vivi, and I just got back from a long weekend in Lake Placid for a hockey tournament, and I’m looking around my apartment thinking, “MAN, do I have a lot to do!”

So what do I do first? Write a blog post, of course. #priorities

For a while now (let’s call it three months), I’ve been meaning to do a blog round-up of my favorite must-have new baby items. It’s a rite of passage for all mommy bloggers, and I actually found them useful when I was creating my own registry for the Vivster. Because, as we’ve discussed, there’s a lot o’ baby crap out there. A mom’s gotta be choosy.

While there are plenty of baby products I could list that I actually did use, here are the five that made the biggest difference in Vivi’s first three months of life.

5 Things New Moms Need in the First Three Months

 

1. Beluga Baby Wrapbelugababy.ca
I’ve already gushed to the moon and back about how much I love this bamboo cotton wrap from Beluga Baby, but it was especially helpful during Vivi’s “fourth trimester.” During the first three months, babies are still adjusting to life outside the womb, so anything you can do to mimic the uterus (white noise, movement, swaddling, etc.) helps to ease this transition. Now, the wrap is especially helpful when Vivi isn’t feeling well or just needs a bit of help calming down from a tantrum. (Plus, you can still get 15% off of your own wrap with code STOPME — the code is good until February 15th. And due to the exchange rate — Beluga Baby is a Canadian company — U.S. shopper can get an additional 25% off right now. So get on it!)

2. Mommy’s Bliss Grip Waterdrugstore.com (also available at most drugstores)
Honestly, if I could make this products 2 through 5, I probably would. Our little girl had a tough time with gas and reflux, especially in the first three months, and this stuff made a world of difference. I like that it’s made from food-based products (fennel and ginger extract, primarily) because I’m as cautious about over-medicating my kid as I am over-medicating myself. Vivi actually really liked the taste, which made the process even easier. I can’t tell you how many times we were able to cure her hiccups or get an especially difficult burp out. (Oh, the tiny successes of parenting!)

3. Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad, giggle.com
I purchased this changing pad after hearing my friend Madison say repeatedly that it was the best thing they had ever purchased for her daughter. And let me just say, it lives up to the hype. Not only does the rubbery surface make it super easy to clean if (and WHEN) your baby blows out a diaper or doesn’t wait for a new diaper to go to the bathroom, it’s also super comfortable and doesn’t slide around on the dresser we decided to use as a changing table. And now that Vivi is a bit more mobile, the raised sides keep her in place during changes.

4. Puj Flyte Compact Infant Bath, target.com
I debated quite a few baby baths before ultimately deciding on the Puj, and I’m so glad I did. Not only does it quickly turn any sink into a tub for Viv, it’s also incredibly lightweight and folds or hangs up for easy drying and storage (ideal for those of us in tiny apartments). Now that we’re traveling with the baby more often, it also makes it easier to pack so Vivi can get her bedtime bath anywhere.

5. Deluxe Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat, burlingtoncoatfactory.com 
Vivi has always been the kind of baby that wants to know what is going on around her. The only problem was, she was too little to sit up herself, meaning we either had to hold her all the time (including during meals) or let her cry while she would lie on a blanket on the floor. Even her swing seat was too reclined for her to be able to see what we were doing around the apartment. Then my mother-in-law got us this soft chair. And, can I just say, we use this reclined seat at least four times a day. Vivi loves that she is sitting up like a big girl and can watch me move around the room and kitchen, and I love that she is comfortable and can keep herself occupied for a few minutes with the toys on the tray. Seriously, this one was life-changing.

I feel like as soon as I hit publish, I’m going to remember at least three other must-have items that I forgot to include on this list (oh, mom brain!) but I can definitely stand behind these five products.

So tell me, what did I miss? What were your must-have items with a new baby?

If you had asked me two years ago if I ever thought I would be a full-time freelance worker, I would have answered unequivocally “no.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t see the merit of leaving the office behind — setting one’s own schedule, prioritizing work I actually enjoy, working from home…the list goes on.

What always held me back, though, was the fear that I would never be able to make it work for real — or that the anxiety of whether or not it was working would crush the joy of freedom. I liked knowing that I had work to go to every morning and a paycheck coming every two weeks without fail.

So, I would have said no, and I wouldn’t have hesitated.

When Joey and I had discussed our work plan post-baby, we talked a few options, but rarely did we discuss the option of me staying home. I made good money, and, more importantly, I liked working. I like what I do for a living. (Most of the time.) I like working on a team, and I’ve even liked a few of the office buildings I’ve worked in. Me working full-time was something that made sense in my brain.

Then I got pregnant.

And from the moment I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I knew things were never going to be the same again. With every sonogram, every inch my belly grew, and every feisty little kick, it became clearer and clearer to me that there simply would be no going back to work for me.

Which isn’t to say that my decision is somehow better or more noble than anyone else’s. Parents choose to go back to work for a variety of reasons — and in some cases it isn’t a choice at all. For me, though, there just wasn’t an alternative.

So, quietly at first, I started to toy with the idea. And as Vivi’s due date drew closer, the possibility and the options I actually had in front of me became more real and ever more likely every day.

When I first put my hands around that tiny baby, I forever let go of the idea of leaving her to go back to work.

Every time she looked at me, Vivian steeled my resolve to find a way to make this work-at-home-mom thing a reality. A month into my maternity leave, finding and applying for remote and telecommute jobs, as well as reaching out to everyone I knew who might be hiring freelance writers, editors, or social strategists, became my full-time hobby.

By the time my “return to work” date rolled around, my mind was fully made up and I turned in my official notice. (For the record, my boss could not have been kinder and more understanding of my decision. We even discussed the possibility of my freelancing for the team in the future.)

And then, quite suddenly, my dream-turned-plan turned into a reality. And I felt…well, I’m still not quite sure. I’m completely happy with the decision and what it means for Vivian and me. But when you have defined yourself by your career for much of your life, it’s weird to suddenly change course.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to handle these changes better than I did five years ago (remember this?)(also, remember when I thought I was leaving journalism for good? lol), so I’m not panicking or even all that worried. I’ve learned that life is rarely finite decisions. Instead, it goes in seasons, and right now, I’m just in a new one.

I’ve had a tendency in the past to throw myself completely into things, only to later wonder if I had given up too much of myself for this new self. But this feels different. I think, with a baby, you really are made over new in almost every way. So even though I’m so different than I was even a few years ago, it doesn’t feel like something I’ve put on so much as something I’ve become. I don’t feel like I’m really giving up any part of myself.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve had some kind of metamorphosis into what I was always meant to become.

That sounds deep and heavy. It also sounds kind of silly or overly poetic. But, regardless of all that, it feels right now that I’ve finally put it into words.

So, for now, I work from home. I ignore the slight flutters of nervousness over this new, less certain career path. And I revel in every second I get to spend with my daughter, watching her become who she will become.

And that office life? Wouldn’t ya know, I don’t really miss it that much at all.

Vivi and Me

At the close of each year, I typically do the same thing on my blog. I’ll write two posts; one is a recap of the top ten most-read posts of the year, and the other is a recap of myself.

Thanks to SEO, though, the top ten posts have stayed fairly stagnant over the last couple of years. In general, my how-tos dominate every time. (Lookin’ at you, How to Paint a Metal File Cabinet.) So I think it might be time to retire that one.

As for my yearly recap, I generally follow the same theme, answering the same questions so I can look back over the years and think ahhh remember when? (Here is last year’s.)

But before I get to that, let’s do a quick year-in-review.

suprise!

Obviously, the biggest thing that happened to my little family this year was that we got a bit bigger. From the moment we announced our pregnancy, I think virtually everything I posted on here in 2015 was about the baby. Since I got pregnant in January, 2015 will forever be the year I remember as The Year of the Baby.

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2015 was also the year of work trips for me. It started with a week-long jaunt to San Francisco for some training. It was extra fun because I got to see my first friend ever, Jackie, who I hadn’t seen in a few years.

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Then, in early spring, I also started a new job (I know, I know, great timing, uterus!) that launched with a trip to Belgium for even more training. (And frites…lots of frites. I was pregnant, after all!)

First unpacked box!

First unpacked box!

Shortly after the Belgium trip, we moved into our current apartment. It was a relief to finally be able to explain to people why, exactly, we needed two bedrooms in our new place.

And then it was summer! The most notable thing that happened to us? Finding out that the little bean in my belly was a girl.

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That was such a blissful day. I still watch our reveal video sometimes!

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Next, Joey and I jetted off to Florida for a babymoon. I truly can’t remember every feeling so relaxed and at peace with my life as I was on that trip — or so excited for Vivian to join us!

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Shortly after that, Joey checked off a bucket list item: He ran his first half marathon! Even though I was super bummed not to be able to run with him, it was a fun change of pace to be the one proudly waiting at the finish line.

 

Yay for Susan!

Yay for Susan!

Congratulations, Natalie!

Congratulations, Natalie!

Then our lives entered the “party phase,” with a slew of baby showers and two weddings (a welcome change from last year’s FIVE weddings).

After that, it felt like all there was left to do was wait — and get rounder. And then, one magic day in September, we finally got to meet our little girl.

{The sweetest face I've ever seen.}

{The sweetest face I’ve ever seen.}

Have you ever seen anything so perfect? I haven’t.

Since then, my blogging regularity has been shot to heck, but my life has never felt fuller. It’s not always wonderful (as I’m sure any new parent would agree…or any parent ever), but there are a lot more wonderful moments.

2015, you were a hoot.

And now, the moment you’ve all (hahahahaha) been waiting for…my yearly sum-uppance.

Age: 28. And I’ve officially stopped getting carded. (Though the fact that a baby is often strapped to me is probably helping.)

Location: New York City

Occupation: Freelance editor/writer/social strategist. (The other biggest change in my life.)

New favorite food: A few years ago, I changed this question to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. I didn’t really eat a lot of new things this year because I spent a majority of the year mildly queasy, but in the last month or so, I was finally convinced to branch out from my usual Thai order and tried Beef Pad See Ew. And it was awesome.

TV shows I’m watching: I finished rewatching Gilmore Girls, but I haven’t really found another show to take its place yet. I’m a big fan of cooking competition shows like Chopped. Sorry my TV watching is so lame.

Book I’m reading: I just finished The Great Train Robbery (highly recommend), and now I’m bouncing between Replay and Making the Terrible Twos Terrific. (Oh, did I mention I’M A MOM NOW?)(Sigh.)

What’s my hair doing right now: This question started out as a joke, but my answer is literally different every year, and I find it genuinely interesting to look back. (That sounds shallow, but y’all know I have a lot of theories on the link between hair and happiness.) Right now, I’m honestly not in love with my hair. Probably because it is practical right now. It’s a lob (which I like) with no bangs (which I fluctuate on like every woman in the Western Hemisphere). And it’s dark blonde/ombre-ish…which I am not loving. I will probably be blonder in the next month or so. I CAN’T QUIT YOU, HIGHLIGHTS.

How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:

1. Completely pay off our debts: I actually did pay off my credit card debt! And Joey is very close to paying off his! I still have a car payment (though it is also much diminished), but we got very, very close to this goal in 2015. I think early 2016 is going to be our time.

2. Build up a savings account: I actually did this too! Of course, it is in serious jeopardy now that I’m not working full-time, but it was fun while it lasted.

3. Pioneer at least five times: This one was a bust. I hate making excuses, but I have to go ahead and blame pregnancy on this one — it took a lot more out of me than I expected.

4. Find a new apartment in April (still in Queens): Done!

And, just in the name of total honesty, you should also know that one of my secret goals last year was to have a baby. I just didn’t want to put it here because I didn’t want to add any extra pressure on the process. So I’m going to go ahead and check that one off too.

And now…goals for next year:

I would like to travel a bit (mostly to see family and hopefully to visit the area where we got engaged), especially while Vivian still flies free. I also want to simplify a lot of our lives, from cleaning out clutter to cutting back on unnecessary expenses. Other than that, I mostly want to keep raising Vivi and make this whole freelancing thing work. You know, no big deal. (LIFE, YOU GUYS.)

So as we bid adieu to The Year of the Baby, I have to say it’s one I will never forget. Can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

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It’s beyond cliche to say that time goes too quickly for most parents, so I’m not going to say it.

BUT YOU GUYS.

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I’m around Vivi every day, obviously, so sometimes she changes without my noticing. But then I sneak peeks at her newborn baby photos (usually during her naps…because I’m obsessed with her, apparently), and I realize that my squishy little baby has been replaced with this bright-eyed, wiggly little girl.

I mean, it’s a good thing. Her growing up is good. That spitting up after every feeding phase? I don’t miss that.

But…

Babies are so fleeting. So I’m still trying to soak up her little baby sweetness every second.

Ugh, is it DUSTY in here? I need a tissue. Moving on.

Here’s a quick update on what the little lady has been up to, plus a teaser about me/an upcoming post:

The biggest change as of late is that, well, Vivian has just gotten to be so much fun lately. She babbles to me constantly, but even that is in this interactive format where I say something, she lets out a “goo,” I say something else, she gurgles and grins — it actually feels like a conversation even though very little is actually being said.

And it’s so freaking cute.

And as if her HUGE grins weren’t enough to totally make up for all those nights of lost sleep I’ll never get back, she also started giving “kisses” on command. (I’ve literally watched that video over a hundred times. It never gets old.)

Last week, she started to get more mastery over her hands, meaning she’s now picking up and holding her toys.

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Her favorites are a set of plush blocks that rattle and her Sophie giraffe. The cutest part is that she always look fascinated by her fingers when they actually do what she wants them to do. I die.

On the more practical side of things, she’s also sleeping through the night and not having nearly as many spit-up attacks as she used to, both developments that make my life a million times easier.

All in all, she’s pretty awesome. It’s such a joy to watch her grow up.

Which leads me to my next announcement…I’m not going back to my office job.

EEP.

Maybe this isn’t that shocking of an announcement (or maybe it is), but for me, it’s a big deal. I’ve worked in an office for the last 8+ years, and I truly thought I always would. But last week, I took the plunge into the world of full-time freelance. It’s a little scary since I only have a couple steady gigs at the moment, but I’ve been in touch with a lot of friends and former co-workers who are looking for writers/editors/social strategists, and I feel like there will always be something to fill in the gaps. (Hopefully?)

No matter what, I know this is the right choice for us, and I’m excited to start this next season of my life. Here’s hoping Vivi’s next month is just as exciting.

When you talk about having a baby, it usually takes roughly .00003 seconds for someone to mention that you are going to be tired.

They love to say it like it’s a big gag:

“A BABY? HOOOOOO-boy! Get used to not sleeping! YUK YUK YUK!”

Okay, to be fair, they might not actually be that obnoxious. But by the 78th time you’ve heard someone make that comment, they all start to sound like an uncle from a Home Alone sequel.

The point is, babies = not a lot of sleep. It’s a thing. People know this.

Which is why, when you tell someone you just had a baby, one of the first things they usually ask is if they’re sleeping through the night.

Has anyone else read Bringing Up Bebe? It’s one of my favorite books I read pre-baby. There’s a whole section about sleeping and how French babies tend to sleep through the night within the first couple of months. But the chapter opens with the writer (an American living in France) talking about how all these French parents used to ask her if her several-week-old baby was sleeping through the night, and she thought it was just kind of a cruel form of teasing until she realized that they really did expect the baby to sleep through the night.

That was a long way of saying that, when your baby is not sleeping through the night, it feels like a cruel joke whenever anyone (French or non) asks if she is.

To be honest, Vivi was never a horrible sleeper. She went through a few weeks where she was actually only waking up once or twice a night. That increased to about three times a night in her second month. It wasn’t so bad because she usually went right back to sleep after being nursed.

Side note: Can I just tell you that there are few moments of despair that compare with the feeling you get after feeding your baby at four in the morning, only to look at her and realize that she is just WIDE AWAKE WITH NO INTENTION OF SLEEPING EVER AGAIN? You just sit there, in the dark, staring at each other, like some bizarre game of sleep chicken. (For the record, the baby always wins.)

But the point is, I counted myself lucky that my kid didn’t scream for hours on end at night and was usually pretty amicable about dozing off again without too much fuss.

So when our pediatrician suggested we start thinking about sleep training at her 2-month appointment, I was fully on-board. I actually knew the conversation was coming because it was discussed when we went for our pre-baby “meet the doctors” appointment, and I had always been pretty in favor of the philosophy. Not because I relish the thought of letting my baby cry it out a bit (I’d probably rate it somewhere above a bikini wax but below coming face-to-face with a cockroach), but rather because I’ve seen her sleep seven-to-eight hours at a stretch, so I know she’s capable, and I’m a big believer in anything that teaches a person (infant or otherwise) to self-soothe.

Granted, I knew the idea of sleep training was probably going to be a lot easier to take than the actual practice. Like I said, I don’t love hearing my daughter scream. In fact, I’d put it pretty high on my list of least favorite things, right above bikini waxes and right below coming face to face with a cockroach. So I approached the first night of training with a bit of trepidation, but I tried to think positively because some people (the French included) believe your attitude can actually make a huge difference in the training’s success. And, not gonna lie, I would do anything to make this easier.

And it went…well, here’s how it went:

Night One

I don’t want to scoop my own anecdote, but the first night went better than I ever could have imagined.

After our bedtime routine (typically nursing, jammies, book, nursing again, sing a song, prayer, and then put her down…every few days a bath is thrown in there), I put Vivi down a little before 8 p.m. awake (per my pediatrician’s instructions). She dozed for about ten minutes, and then awoke with a veangence. This was honestly one of the hardest moments of the whole process. Vivi screamed for twenty minutes while I sat on the couch with silent tears rolling down my face. I had to keep reminding myself, nothing is wrong; she’s just pissed off. Because babies are creatures of habit, and she was used to eating whenever she accidentally woke herself up, regardless if she was hungry or not.

After 20 minutes, she dropped off suddenly into sleep, and I poured myself a glass of wine to cope with the trauma. (Kidding.)(Sort of.)

She woke up again around 3 a.m. and cried for an hour, but this time, I could tell her heart wasn’t really in it. It was mostly a whining kind of cry before she fell back asleep. I went into her room around 7:15 the next morning to find her awake but contentedly scooting around her crib and hungry. I considered this a great first night.

Night 2-4

Ohhhh, Justine. Have we learned nothing about parenting? Never, ever start telling yourself that you got this.

While on the second, third, and fourth nights it took Vivi only five minutes to put herself to sleep (and without any of that unsettling screaming), she would wake up sometime between three and four and just never really go back to sleep. Instead, she would cry for about 45 minutes, JUST seem to doze off, and then suddenly jerk herself awake and cry 30-45 minutes all over again. This pattern typically went on until around 6:00, when I would finally crack (telling myself at least it had been the minimum ten hours the doctor recommended) and going in to nurse her.

I was worried I was undo-ing the process. I was worried my baby was legitimately hungry and maybe too young to start this process. I was worried. In short, I was being a parent.

So I called the doctor for some backup. A very nice nurse listened to my concerns and calmly told me that, more likely than not, the baby was just testing me. She really did not need to eat for up to 12 hours each night because she had been gaining weight well. She really could sleep that long, and I really had to stick with the process for a week-and-a-half to two weeks to see serious results.

The nurse told me to do whatever made me comfortable, but to remember that whatever pattern I created now, the baby would ultimately stick to. So I took a deep breath and steeled my resolve anew.

Night Five

I was really nervous about this night because, that day, we were actually driving to Ohio to visit my family. I wasn’t sure how nine hours in the car was going to upset the process, but I knew my baby was not a big fan of changes to her schedule.

Miracuslously, though, this was the first night Vivi slept 11 hours straight. I literally woke up in almost a panic when I realized it was 7:30 and I had gotten about nine hours of sleep myself. Again, though, she was awake but happily wiggling around in her bassinet.

SUCCESS!

Nights 6-13

The next week went by with slightly varied but still pretty good success. Vivi would occasionally wake around 5-6:00 a.m. but usually could put herself back to sleep within half an hour if I waited.

But here’s the really good part: The last two nights, she has slept TWELVE full hours. Without waking up at all in the night.

And while, yes, I realize that by even putting those words into print I am probably cursing the entire process, I do feel like, at the very least, we aren’t starting from scratch anymore.

Though, my newfound positivity could just be the result of getting 19 collective hours of sleep over the last two nights. I feel like I could climb a mountain right now.

The point is, for us, the process worked. I didn’t invent the idea of sleep training (I would be much richer if I had, I’m sure), but here are a few things that really helped us should you want to try this method yourself:

1. Routine, routine, routine. We wind down for bed almost the exact same way every night. The only true variable is the bath, and I always feel like she sleeps even better after a bath. She’s too little to get one every night (at least I think so), but when she’s older, I definitely see this as a regular part of the routine. The point is, Vivi knows what’s coming starting around 6:30 in the evening. Lately, she has been dropping off to sleep with maybe a single cry or none at all.

2. Consistency. Even when it breaks your heart. Yes, you really, really, really do have to just tough out the moments when they’re crying. Obviously, have a video monitor if you can so you can reassure yourself nothing is actually wrong, but just remind yourself that any time you go into that room after you put them to bed, you’re creating an expectation in them. And it will be just as hard to break the next night. But if you’re consistent, it really does get easier.

And if that isn’t enough to keep you out, remember this: The older they get, the bigger the tantrums get. And the more likely it is they will be able to call you by name. (So much worse than just crying.) And the more likely it is that they will try to climb out of their crib, possibly injuring themselves. These were all thoughts that helped me.

3. Remember: Sleep begets sleep. The better my baby slept at night, the better her naptime routine became during the day. It seems like the opposite would be true, but the fact is, she got better at going to sleep period, and her entire schedule became more consistent. Which just makes life as a whole go more smoothly.

Granted, this is what worked for us. I’m not saying your baby will have the exact same experience. It might be harder. It might be easier. As my nurse said, you have to do what makes you comfortable. But if you do go this route, hopefully this is helpful.

Other mommas: Have you tried sleep training? How old was your baby when you started? How did it go?