Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's a Blog Party!

When I was wandering around on some blogs the other day, I discovered a "natural parenting" blog party!  Now, I don't really know what a blog party is, but i thought it sounded like fun so I decided to join in.  This isn't technically a parenting blog.  It started as a "living in China" blog and drifted into a "baby-baby-baby-China-baby" blog.  And I'm only a partly natural parent (I use disposable diapers, after all!)

Apparently a blog party is a chance to explore the blogs of other people who are a little bit like you, and I have been enjoying doing just that.  Confession: I love reading blogs.  Since I don't have enough actual friends who keep blogs, I also read blogs of people I vaguely know, and more recently, of complete strangers.  I feel my blog fascination can be partly excused since there are very few instances in my real life when I am around people who are very much like me.  Of course it is no good to expect everyone to be just like me, particularly living in a foreign country, but sometimes (and I am finding, particularly in parenting), it can be rather reassuring.  It has been fun exploring some blogs of other 'weird' people who make my parenting choices seem pretty normal.

Part of this blog party includes sharing answers to a few "get to know you" parenting questions.  By the way, I think it would be fun to hear your own answers as well, parenting styles and blogging status not-withstanding.
1. How many children do you have and how old are they?
One daughter, 7 months old

2. Do you have a partner or are you a single parent?
Kevin and I have been married for 3.5 years, and I'm so glad he is into attachment parenting too.

3. What are your "hot button" parenting issues?
- Convenience parenting: Decisions and parenting methods motivated more by the desire to make your baby fit into your life with less hassle than by what is actually best for your baby.
- The push to make your baby independent as fast as possible (Americans get so carried away with this!  I don't even think independence is the ultimate goal anyway - we're created to need other people and for others to need us...interdependence.)
-"Experts" who make you feel guilty for doing what you feel is best for your baby instead of following their method.

4. Have you made any parenting choices that you didn’t think you would make before you were a parent, i.e. cloth diapering a child when you had previously thought it was disgusting?
Oh, lots!  I didn't expect to have my baby sleep with me at all, and certainly didn't think she'd still be co-sleeping part time at 7 months old.  I thought I would be much more scheduled.  I didn't think I would be opposed to "cry it out," especially after so many months of terrible sleep.  I plan to breastfeed for longer than I originally thought.  I definitely didn't think I'd ever be holding my baby over a potty and whistling for her like those crazy Chinese people. :)

5. Is there a book or person in particular that has heavily influenced your parenting choices?

Dr. Sears - The Baby Book and website.  I didn't know anything about it until after having a baby, but now I love Dr. Sears.  I appreciate the practical, balanced, reassuring info about attachment parenting.  It really emphasizes getting to know your baby and figuring out what works best for you, rather than following any set method or expert.  It's all about promoting attachment and creating a loving, secure environment instead of 'training' your baby and stressing independence.

6. If you had to describe each of your children using only one word, what word would you use?

7.Is there one parenting decision that you regret more than others and wish you could change?
Well, I haven't been a parent for very long so hopefully I haven't screwed up TOO badly yet. :)  I wish I would have thought more about parenting styles/decisions before giving birth.

8. Is there an area of your parenting you wish you were better at?
Balance - Being able to be a good mom to Juliana while not neglecting other areas of life

9. is there one particular food or type of food that you could eat every day?

Chocolate.  Or cereal.  But not chocolate cereal.

10. Vanilla ice cream or chocolate?
Chocolate chip cookie dough.  Or mint chocolate chip.  Or cookies and cream.  Dang,  I want some ice-cream!

11. What's your guilty pleasure?

Reading other people's blogs

12. If you could be part of any television show, which show would it be?
The Gilmore Girls.  I think it would really promote my sarcastic education.  And then I could indulge in all those yummy, horribly unhealthy foods they're always eating.  I would totally bomb out on the pop-culture references, though.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baby Star goes to Hospital

America: Make an appointment and go to pediatrician's office. Doctor examines baby and gives appropriate immunizations. Go home.

American in China: Slightly more complicated...

The first time Juliana needed a check-up in the fall, we discovered we couldn't get all the immunizations she needed where we are. So we made a 12 hour trip to Beijing to an international clinic where we shelled out a bundle of money for the appropriate imported vaccines. At Juliana's second check-up in Thailand, not only was she able to get all the vaccines she needed, they sent us back with the vials we would need for her 6 month immunizations, packed up in an ice-chest for travel. We had the vaccines; now all we needed was the doctor. Simple, right?


Actually, it wasn't too bad, but it was quite a bit more interesting than your average pediatrician's visit in America.

Our student Alice lives in Weinan and is always eager to help us out with things, so she took us to the local women and children's hospital, a convenient 15 minute walk away. As soon as we walked into the hospital, the lobby was abuzz with excitement. Foreign baby alert!

The hospital was impressively clean, though the unfinished cement hallways were dim. We walked up to the fourth floor, passing the “baby swimming/bathing” section.  You may recall a few months ago when we took Juliana swimming, but at a private facility instead of the hospital. The hallway was crowded with dozens of people holding tiny babies and toddlers. At least, I think there were small babies inside the giant quilt bundles. Alice said most of them are probably waiting for their babies to have a bath.

We peered into a quiet exam room where a doctor was sitting with a mother and baby in a strangely private calm. Until we walked in. Suddenly the room was filled the excited chatter of the dozen people who had joined our entourage. Nurses flocked from other rooms to squeal over the foreign baby. A crowd formed. Several women grabbed Juliana's hands while another touched her face. Several shoved their disinterested babies in her direction. They jabbered about her oh so white skin and her smile and how old she must be and how little clothes she was wearing. Juliana beamed and laughed; she loves to be in the spotlight and had just made a dozen new friends.

One difference between Chinese and American babies is that Chinese babies wear a lot more clothing, [understatement of the year]. Take this day, for instance. It was 80* outside. Juliana was wearing a fleece pajama-type outfit. Fleece in 80* weather? Sounds crazy, right? Except that Juliana's Chinese counterparts were wearing anywhere between 2-5 inches more clothing than her. The older babies were dressed in giant padded outfits (thick enough they could probably be dropped from the second floor without injury). The younger babies were completely hidden under giant blankets. Thick, adult size blankets, wrapped all the way around their heads with only a tiny bit of face peeking out. Several babies were red and sweating profusely, but the others seemed to have already adjusted, which is good, considering the lifetime of layers ahead of them. I look at them and think, never in her life has Juliana come close to wearing enough clothes.

Alice and I leave Kevin holding baby, surrounded by the crowd in the exam room to go back downstairs to pay. At Chinese hospitals you always pay upfront. Today the fee is a little steep – 30Y, or about $4.50. Back upstairs to the exam room, where the nurses have commandeered the baby and are taking pictures on their cell phones.

The doctor completes the standard exam, checking her height and weight and saying she is too small, which compared to Chinese babies she probably is. How do such chubby babies turn into such tiny grown-ups? They check her various abilities and flex her limbs like they are doing Thai massage.

We were a little concerned about her scar from the TB vaccine two months ago, which has begun to look irritated. They say it is inflamed and Alice says we will go to have another doctor look at it. I think I hear her say something about going “to surgery,” and images of Kevin's horrible experience getting his back sliced open immediately pop to mind. If they try to bring a scalpel near my baby, I'm making a run for it. Fortunately, when we walk downstairs, the doctor just swipes it with what we presume to be iodine and says it's okay.

Now it is time for immunizations, but we have a problem; since they don't know what the medicine is (the info is all in English and Thai), nobody wants to administer the shots. I am impressed and annoyed at the same time. Never in a million years would an American doctor shoot you up some unknown medication you carried in off the street. It would be a giant lawsuit waiting to happen. I didn't think it would be quite such a big deal here, though. Half a dozen doctors discuss it together, examining the medicine boxes, while Alice tries to persuade them to take the chance. Finally one of the nurses agrees to do it if we sign a paper saying the hospital is not responsible. She writes something up on a scrap piece of paper, and Alice translates so I can write up an English version, three sentences taking responsibility for these unknown drugs that are about to be given to my baby. I sign both papers and we prepare for the injections.

The second problem is that the doctors aren't sure how to give the shots. We pull out giant page of warnings and finally at the bottom find instructions. That's right, instructions. We argue for a few minutes over where to inject the medicine (the instructions say the thigh, where they were giving in Thailand, but the doctors say they never give shots in the thigh). We pull out the vials and needles and examine them together. Alice translates the instructions to the nurse, who knows what she is doing after all. Once she saw the vials she must have realized it wasn't so different from Chinese vaccines.

The nurse hesitates to give the first shot because she hates to make the happy baby cry. As the first shot is injected, Juliana predictably starts to wail. Everyone in the room (six or eight doctors and nurses) gather around, clucking and chirping and waving arms and keys and whatever else they can think of to make her smile again. Any other baby probably would have been completely overwhelmed, but for Juliana it does the trick; she is smiling again just in time for her second injection.

Except that the doctors and nurses can't figure out how to attach the needle for the second shot. Apparently it is a different type than they use in China. They ask us (as if we would know) and we make some conjectures, they fiddle around and discuss a bit more, and finally they figure it out. Not exactly a confidence booster, but I guess it will all work out. Injection two completed, baby wails for another thirty seconds until distracted by a toy. The immunizations are complete, and we stop back by the cashier desk to pay our 6Y (90 cent) injection fee before heading home.

Never a dull moment for the foreign baby.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Little Sleep

by Ruth
I know you have been eagerly waiting for an update of Operation Juliana Sleep.  Okay, or you couldn't care less.  But I'm going to tell you anyway!

We are now 50 days into "No Cry Sleep Solution" methods of trying to get Juliana to sleep better.  The first 44 days were incredibly depressing.  I can't say there was no progress, but it sure seemed that way.  Juliana's naps got better, and she started going to sleep more easily, but she was still waking up 5+ times a night and never sleeping longer than 2 hours.  44 days might not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it's a long time.  A very long time.  Especially when you have already been sleep deprived for 6+ months. Usually several times a week I ended up crying in the middle of the night because I was so tired and frustrated.

BUT in the past few days we have actually, finally started to see some sleep improvement!  Not just for one night, but for several nights in a row.  The other night, Juliana slept for 4.5 hours in one stretch!  4.5 hours!  She has only slept longer than that two or three times in her entire life.  For several nights now she has only woken up three times during the night!  That might not seem great, but three is sooo much more manageable than five or ten times.  It's not yet "sleeping through the night" (defined as 5+ hours), but it is more than I dared hope for.  I have actually started to believe this may work!

Not only that, but Juliana has been taking many 2 hour naps (up from 30-45 minutes), and the other day she napped for 1.5 hours in her crib!  This is unprecedented.

Juliana is still convinced that she doesn't need more than eight hours of sleep at night, and consequently has started waking up at 6 or 6:30am to make up for that extra sleep time during the night.  I'm not thrilled about that.  And sometimes it still takes 40 minutes to get her to fall asleep for a nap, and sometimes she tries to wake up every 5 minutes of her nap.  But slowly, things are improving.  And without ever leaving her to cry.

I think this nighttime sleep thing is a huge breakthrough.  I am tentatively thrilled.  Tentatively, because I'm not yet at all convinced she won't flip back to her old ways any night now.  But I have hope for the future, for the first time in ages.

Additionally, the past few nights I have been pumping some milk so Kevin can take over the first night feeding, meaning that I have been getting 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep!  Well, I still wake up at least every couple of hours because my body has forgotten how to sleep anymore, but I don't have to get out of bed or stay awake.  It's amazing to go to bed at 9pm and know that I won't have to get up until 3am.  This new influx of sleep is both wonderful and a bit dangerous at the same time.

Dangerous, because all of a sudden my body seems to remember this kind of sleep is possible and is yelling, "Give me more!!"  I have actually felt more tired/sleepy/foggy than normal in the past few days.  I also feel just enough more with it for my mind to start going crazy as it realizes I have accomplished nothing in the past 6+ months.  Last night I lay awake past the ungodly hour of 9:30pm, my thoughts going crazy, enthusiastically jumping every 5 seconds to completely unrelated topics.  It reminded me of that time in Gilmore Girls where Loralei traces her chaotic thought patterns...
"My brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish. I'm writing a letter, I can't write a letter, why can't I write a letter? I'm wearing a green dress, I wish I was wearing my blue dress, my blue dress is at the cleaners. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, 'Casablanca' is such a good movie. Casablanca, the White House, Bush. Why don't I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car. I should really take my bicycle to work. Bicycle, unicycle, unitard. Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants!"
That's kinda what my thought pattern was like.  I keep having bizarre, irrational thoughts.  However, the fact I can recognize their irrationality reassures me that perhaps I am not completely crazy yet.

For example.  The other night I woke up and bumped my foot into Kevin's.  He kind of jerked it away in his sleep, and for some reason I thought that seemed really weird.  I thought, "Maybe it's not Kevin's foot!"  I reached out to touch it again and he jerked it away again and I sat up all freaked out, "That doesn't feel like Kevin's foot!  There must be something at the bottom of our bed!  Maybe it is a small animal!  Oh no, maybe it's the baby!  Somehow she has ended up at the end of our bed and is suffocating!!"  I was looking over and seeing Juliana sleeping peacefully in her crib but at the same time still thinking, "Maybe it's the baby!"  I was picturing a little raccoon or baby possum wiggling around, as if we were camping instead of on a third floor apartment in the middle of the city in a country where I have never seen raccoons or possums.  I was a little bit more awake at that point and realized that both of these ideas were pretty crazy, but I still had to reach over and feel Kevin's leg to reassure myself that it was indeed his foot. 

It was pretty special.  Perhaps I still need more sleep.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Day in the Life of Juliana

6:30am - Time to rise and shine! Play! Talk! Enough of this sleep stuff.

By morning I am usually in mommy and daddy's bed, so sometimes we get to play as soon as we wake up.

Playtime! I have so many fun toys. I especially like the ones for chewing. Of course, I'll chew on anything.

Sometimes I "talk" Grandma Yaya, Grandpa, Nana, and Gramps on the computer. I don't really understand what's going on, but mommy and daddy point a little video camera at me and I do my best to perform all my new tricks.

After a few hours, I'm getting pretty tired from my early morning wakening and mommy says, "Naptime for tiny babies!" I try my hardest to wiggle my way out of her arms and keep yelling that I don't want to nap, but eventually I give in and fall asleep. Sometimes I even sleep in my crib!

When I wake up, daddy holds me over my little potty...well really it's just a little pot, but it's the perfect size for me! When he whistles, I know what to do! It's pretty fun.

Time for eating! I still like mommy's milk best, but this whole food thing is a fun new way to play. Today I'm having some squash and oatmeal. Mommy thinks it should go in my mouth, but I know better - it's much more fun all over my face and hands and chair and floor and mommy's shirt...

More playtime! This time I do a little hopping in my "Juliana Jump-up."

I'm not tired. I'm really not. But the soft music is playing and I'm sucking on my pacifier and daddy is bouncing me around, so maybe I'll just close my eyes for a minute... But none of this crib stuff this time. I insist on daddy's arms.
I like to go on walks in the afternoon. Sometimes we walk around the school and see lots of adoring fans, eh, students. Sometimes we walk out into the fields where everything is turning green and pretty.

Time to eat some more food!

Did I mention that I love bathtime! More playtime! But in the water! I love to splish and splash - and eat my ducky. :)

Storytime! I like feeling the books and trying to eat, um...I mean,  turn the pages.

I hate to admit it, but I'm getting a little sleepy...
Night-night. Sleep tight. Will you miss me? Don't worry - I'll wake you up again in a couple of hours!