Maleah Boo Boo (kinda like Honey Boo Boo except classier) is six weeks old as of yesterday! I keep thinking back to her birthday and what an incredible experience it was. She has been the most incredible gift we could have been given and we are so proud to be her parents.
One thing I didn't anticipate in parenthood (trust me, there's waaaaay more than one thing I didn't anticipate) was how much joy she would bring other people. Watching our parents, siblings, friends, and family interact with her is so exciting. To know that God has already used her to bring happiness and joy to other people is a blessing!
So, about these first six weeks. They have been the most challenging weeks of my entire life! You arrive home with this tiny little person who you're supposed to care for, nurture, love, and train. They tell you what should happen and how you ought to do things. But these little creatures are individuals and their uniqueness is up to you to determine. No one can tell you their quirks or their idiosyncracies. That's your job!
The first week of Maleah's life was exhausting simply because I had pneumonia. Thankfully it wasn't full-blown pneumonia, but it was enough to keep me limited physically. I couldn't talk at length or stand up/walk around for long periods of time. So, I relied heavily on Blake and my mom. Thankfully Maleah was pretty easy to deal with during that time. She just did the newborn thing - eat, sleep, poop 'round the clock.
The day before she turned three weeks old, I had food poisoning (and wound up dehydrated) and was literally stuck in bed for 48 hours. I laid down in my bed at 4pm Monday and got up only out of necessity until Wednesday afternoon. For about 24 hours, I couldn't even hold her because I was so weak. It was awful!!! Mom and Blake had to take care of her and me.
So the first three and half weeks we were just in survival mode. Maleah was the easy part. We did whatever she needed whenever she needed it - piece of cake.
Until I started to realize that we were in a never ending cycle of uncertainty. Anyone who knows me knows I am a creature of habit through and through. My body is trained to live on a schedule. I kinda go nutso when my schedule gets thrown off or when I have to rethink a routine. Not knowing what to expect from Maleah was really stressing me out. Plus, I had to figure out a pumping schedule in order to feed her since Maleah was not interested in nursing. There were days I'd call Blake nearly in tears asking him to come home early so he could hold her while I pumped. This wasn't working for anyone in our household.
Thankfully Maleah is a creature of habit, too. Within her first week, she was already eating on a consistent two and a half to three hour schedule. She'd start to rustle from sleep, you'd look at your watch and realize it was time for her to eat! Noticing that she was putting herself in a pattern, we decided to try to get her in a guided routine so that we could all be happy. So now she eats about every three hours during the day, stays awake for 45-75 minutes, naps 1.5-2 hours, eats, wakes, sleeps, over and over. At 7pm, she eats, we play with her for 10-15 minutes, and then we give her a bath, read a Bible story, sing, and put her to bed. That is my absolute favorite time of day. I've also started praying the Lord's prayer with her before laying her in the crib. It's just a very sweet way to end the day and I can always feel God's presence during these times with her!
We are still working on the overnight routine because for a while she was waking up frequently due to gas (I apologize for ever rolling my eyes at someone talking about their baby's gas - it is real and it is painful for them!!!). It was hard to figure out when she was up because of gas and when she was up because of gas and hunger. We started giving her gripe water at her night time feeds and that has helped. The past two nights, she's woken up around 11 and 3 to eat. (We tried to do the "dream feed" thing at 10pm, but she wouldn't take the whole bottle so now we just go to sleep & let her wake us up around 11.) We also feed her sensitive formula for her two overnight feeds because my milk was giving her gas, too. Since breastmilk can change with what you eat, we decided formula cut out the guess work of whether or not something I ate could affect her overnight. During the day, she doesn't really have gas issues so we think it's just from her laying flat and not always burping well at night. Hopefully as her digestive system matures, she won't have those problems anymore.
On Friday, we also started doing "progressive waiting" - AKA The Ferber Method (known as "cry it out" to most people). The approach he recommends is actually WAY different than I thought it was. He doesn't just suggest that you let your baby cry endlessly without tending to him or her. He suggests you "train" your baby over a period of 7 days (we are stretching it to two weeks) but gradually increasing your "wait times" before intervening when your baby is crying. In just five days, Maleah is already happier while she's awake, she eats full feedings, and sleeps more soundly. The past two days, she barely even makes a fuss when we put her down so we're not even really having to listen to her cry anymore! We make sure she is clean/dry, fed, and ready to sleep (that's a biggie - watching for the sleep cues). So when she cries, we know it's because she is tired. I'm sure not every day during this process will be easy, but we can already see the benefits for our sweet girl (and for us). I've been happier, calmer, and more relaxed since we started doing this.
While she's awake, Maleah is very alert and has discovered all sorts of fun things to do! She LOVES looking in a mirror - she's obsessed with herself! She will stare at the pictures of a book while you read to her, she can track objects with her eyes, she likes to look outside, likes to be held, likes being talked to... but my FAVORITE, most absoulte favorite is when she looks around for me or Blake. Catching her attention is the greatest feeling!
So, that's where we are now! We have a happy, healthy baby and we are loving every minute of being her parents!!