Need infertility encouragement

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous has been trying to have a baby for a few years, with no success. She just got the diagnosis of having the MTHFR gene. She's feeling tired and like she's been running a marathon that never ends and just looked up to realize she's at the bottom of a tall mountain that she now has to climb, but at the same time hopeful that now that she knows what's wrong it can be fixed.

I know a lot of you have gone through infertility, in small ways or large. And I'm sure those of you who haven't experienced difficulty (or impossibility) conceiving and/or miscarriage have close friends or family members who have.

I know that there's nothing we can *do* for Anonymous. We can't tell her what will happen, or when it will happen. But I'm hoping we could maybe each give her a little gift that she can stick in her pocket and pull out when she gets tired and needs a little strength. So if you can, please write something. About your own experience with infertility. About how you made it through. About how your friends dealt with it. Or just something kind.

Thanks.

Not dead

Just work trip, then avalanche of catching up, then (and now) sinus/headcold/missing neti pot/misery. Can't think well for love or money.

Questions:

1. What one thing, if removed from your life, would make parenting more fun for you?

2. What one thing, if added to your life, would make parenting more fun for you?

Answer in the comments, please, and editorialize at will about any current issues you're experiencing.

My answers:

1. Little League

2. Realistically: a washer and dryer in my building. Unrealistically: a household manager in the style of Tony from "Who's the Boss?".

Q&A: naps at around 3 months

Lisa writes:

"I seek your wisdom on naps!

My nearly eleven week old son is a champion night sleeper but fights
daytime naps like a big fighty thing.  He'll sometimes go an entire day
with only a couple of short catnaps, where he goes down but won't stay
asleep for more than ten minutes and can't be settled back down again. I
do look out for tired signs after he's been awake for an hour and a
half to two hours, but he frequently goes from "displaying no tired
signs at all" to "overtired" without any noticeable signs of weariness
and won't settle down at all.  Or he simply doesn't seem to get tired!

Often the only way to get him to nap is to walk him round the
neighbourhood in his Bjorn or pram and KEEP MOVING, which is obviously
not very restful for me! He also sometimes has great 2-3 hour naps in
his baby swing, but again, often wakes up after a short while, and needs
to be put down at just the right stage of drowsy or actually asleep. If
he isn't sleepy enough, he either just lies there awake and staring (he
does a good line in "you've got to be kidding, lady" looks) or gets
unbelievably cranky – he doesn't seem to be one of those babies that you
can just "put down for a nap".

We swaddle him for night time sleeps but don't always do so for naps,
usually because the window of opportunity between "a bit tired, might
sleep" and "TOO TIRED TO SLEEP" is barely noticeable, if there at all,
and I can't keep him swaddled all day!  A lot of his better naps have
happened after he's unexpectedly fallen asleep while feeding.

I do think he needs the sleep, as he does get awfully grizzly and grumpy
if he doesn't get enough naptime.  Also *I'd* like some time when he's
asleep during the day to do exciting things like, er, eat uninterrupted,
or read.  Ideally it'd be nice if he'd nap in his crib, too (I am
currently taking your Malcolm X approach to his swing naps!), and at
predictable times, but for now I'd be happy if he'd just nap, full stop.

Hope you can help!"

Wow, do I wish I could help! Unfortunately, what you are describing is totally, completely, absolutely, comically typical of daytime sleep for babies that age.

It seems like there are babies that fall into a few different camps. At one extreme we have babies who sleep all day. While rare, I hear they actually do exist. A friend of mine finished her PhD thesis and painted two rooms while home on her 12-week maternity leave with her first, so obviously at least one baby has been a real daytime sleeper. At the other end of the scale there are babies who really truly don't sleep at all during the day for the first few months. I'd like to write more about that but just thinking about it scares me so I'm backing away slowly.

The majority of babies, though, seem to be either 45-minute kids or 20-minute kids. Meaning that their standard nap length seems to be preset to be either 45 minutes long (help) or 20 minutes long (heellllllpppp). And you can, and will, try everything: rocking, swaddling, going for walks with the baby in the pram/stroller, driving the baby around in the car, letting them sleep on top of the running clothes dryer, strapping them to you, leaving them alone in a crib and shutting the door and sobbing, etc. But the only thing that actually seems to lengthen the nap time is if your mother-in-law is babysitting, in which case they sleep for 90 minutes and you look like a crazed liar.

Raise your hand if you tried that whole scheme of waiting for the time when the baby woke up and sticking the pacifier/bottle/your boob in the baby's mouth right at the exact second before full wakefulness occurred to attempt to get another 20 or 45-minute sleep cycle out of your baby. I bet you remember with clarity the three times it worked.

Raise your hand if you've been driving to a store to get one specific thing and have ended up stuck sitting in the parking lot for 18 or 43 minutes because your child is taking a nap and you think maybe this time will be the one long nap and you can't screw it up by pulling the baby out of the car.

Raise your hand if you think your back will never be the same because you spent months and months bouncing around the house with your baby in a carrier, desperate for just ten minutes longer.

Raise your hand if you thought you must have been doing something really, truly, horribly wrong, because babies are supposed to sleep, dammit, and if you couldn't even make that happen, then what good are you? 

Now raise your hands in the air and wave them around like you just don't care if, in fact, you stopped caring because none of it worked, not even the guilt bath. It's just biology and the particular preset your baby has. All kinds of books will have all kinds of tips on getting your baby to sleep longer, and I bet even the readers will tell you things that got them a few extra minutes, but really, it's just something that's kind of preset during that time period.

And then, somehow, when your baby is right around 5 or 5 1/2 months old (or 4 1/2 if you're really lucky), your baby will go into a new growth/developmental spurt and will start taking longer naps. It really feels like winning the lottery. Not the MegaMillions, but a decent-sized pot. I feel certain that it's connected to the pretty-horrible-for-some-people 4-month sleep regression–once that regression is over, the leap includes being able to (and needing to) sleep longer stretches. It just seems to happen (especially if you do really pay attention to the sleep signals–if you have a baby who gives them).

So with these words, Lisa, I free you: There's nothing more you can do. 6,000 years of parents haven't been able to change newborn sleep patterns, so don't overthink it. If it makes you feel better to try all kinds of tricks to get him to sleep, then do it. But give yourself credit for the effort, not for any results. Enjoy your nighttime sleep, and be ready to pounce in that 5-month-old nap switch window. You're doing a great job.

Back to life primal scream

It feels like everyone's a little (ha!) discombobulated about getting back to normal life after whatever kind of spring break (and maybe Passover or Easter) celebrations you had. I got off scot-free (my kids went away for a week with their dad, and then we went out for dim sum for Easter dinner) so I'm just my normal harried self. But I know some of you have had some experiences that ranged from quietly diminishing to rage-inducing.

Let it loose here, please. And if you have nothing to vent, perhaps you could give some support to those who do. I'd give you all a hug and a glass of wine if I could.

Q&A: Moms Who Travel For Work

A frequent reader who I'm not going to name because the position isn't hers quite yet writes:

"After years of reading and gleaning lots of spot-on advice from you and
your readers, I have a question:

How do you handle (or prevent)
the logistical and emotional upheaval of business travel?  I love my
work, and I'm a candidate for an exciting and lucrative promotion.  I'm
traveling by air next week with my potential new supervisors on business
trip.  This is the first time I've traveled for work since my
4-year-old son was born.  I'm nervous about what, in essence, will be a
two-day job interview.  I'm also in a bit of an emotional
state–worrying about day-to-day routine disruptions (including finding a
babysitter for when my husband is in class), mourning missed events (my
son's preschool Art Show), and fearing the most horrific what-ifs
(plane crash!).

How do you do it?  What are your most valuable sanity savers? 
Should I check my luggage or carry-on?  Any packing advice?  How do I
quit obsessing over the worst-case scenario?"

Perfect timing for me for this question, as I'm traveling next week, this time for four days. And I know there are other traveling working moms who will weigh in.

I think you've got the most important thing covered already, which is that you like the job. It's brutal to be shoehorning yourself onto an airplane and leaving your little sweetie if you don't really enjoy what you're doing. Travel was extremely hard on me emotionally when I wasn't fully bought in to my job. Since I'm volunteering to make the Kool-Aid for my current job, the leaving is much, much, much easier. Most of my trips are fun and a positive contribution to the world, so it doesn't feel like a hot poker in the stomach to leave my boys.

I'll admit, though, that I have a sweet situation, in that my kids stay at their dad's when I'm on a work trip. We use our crack team of babysitters more to cover the ends of the day when I'm gone, but for the kids it's not a sad "Mom's gone" time as much as it is a "Woo-hoo! Three days with Dad" time. If we were all together in the same household I think my absence would be felt more strongly by the kids.

I think you could replicate the "different rules when mom's on a trip" dynamic (*if* you wanted to) by encouraging your partner to create routines or built-in treats that only happen when you're not home. This would make it just a different time for your son while you're traveling, instead of a sad time for him.

I don't think there's anything you can do about feeling bad that you're missing things. I also don't think there's anything you can do about the fact that if you travel for work, at some point you're going to find yourself calling the school from the airport to find out if you forgot that today was an early-dismissal day (and knowing that if it is you have to find a babysitter to pick him up in an hour). I think part of being a working mom, and especially a traveling working mom, is losing the thread every once in awhile. Which is a big reason it's important to work on forming a safety net for yourself. Make sure you have enough babysitters that you use regularly on call. Let friends know when you'll be traveling, Offer to do some pick-ups and drop-offs for other parents while you're in town so you can call in a favor if you need it while you're on the road. Spend the time creating your own village.

I do think it gets easier, though. And you really value the things you don't miss. And you'll start to enjoy the travel, especially if you can work treats in for yourself. For me, just being in lockdown with no one able to ask me anything (aside from what I want to drink) for a 2 or 3-hour flight, is an enormous luxury. But I like to add to that by reading a magazine or trashy novel. And I do a lot of eating high-calorie foods in bed while watching TV while I'm on the road, too. If you have friends and the ability and open time to connect with them in the place you'll be traveling to, definitely make the effort. If you're extra-nice to yourself and create your own rituals and moments of connection, traveling can be good for your soul.

I bet everyone's going to give conflicting advice about the actual travel, so here's my two cents:

  • Carry on. Most airlines are charging buckets of money to check anything these days, and if you're only going for two days, you shouldn't be bringing that much stuff anyway. Get a good, solid wheelie bag (aka "rollerboard") that fits in most overhead compartments, but know that you might have to put it underneath or gate-check it. 
  • Travel size-it, or use non-liquid products. They're serious about the 3.4 ounce rule for liquids. Put them all in a gallon-size ziploc-type plastic bag. Pack that at the very obvious top of your bag or toss it in your purse, because you need to pull it out for security.
  • I use a 4-bin system at security, and I see the male business travelers rolling their eyes, until my 4 bins and I are through security and they're still stuck in line: 1 bin for my laptop, 1 for my shoes, 1 for my ziploc of liquids, and one for my purse (and I put my BlackBerry on top of my open purse so it's obvious what it is), and then my bag itself. (n the winter I put my coat in the ziploc bin, with the ziploc on top.)
  • Be nice. I mean, yeah, of course. But being really nice, even if you're stressed out, can defuse a bad situation. It can also help you in a jam. Even if all it does is make you feel superior to the people sitting next to you, every little bit helps.
  • Ask for help. People will always help you if you need it. Always. And sometimes people need the extra boost of being useful to someone else.
  • Get a little black dress that doesn't wrinkle, and always have that and a pair of heels (or whatever you'd wear in a cocktail party situation) in your bag.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, get the large size sweet tea at the Carolina Pit BBQ stand in the food court of CLT. It is waaaaaay too big and will throw you off entirely. The medium is good enough.

All the rest of my advice is about specific airlines/airports/rental car companies/hotel chains/cities, so that's what I've got.

Anyone else? Either advice for our writer about traveling, or advice about being the parent who's at home while she's traveling? I know you all have good stuff, so please share.

Q&A: going back to work full-time after being SAHM

Alicia writes:

"After 3 years of being a SAHM it is necessary for me to get back into
the workplace because of financial reasons. What can I do to make the
transition easier on my son and on me? My husband and I are separated,
and I do not even want to think about how I will miss my son on the
weekends he is with his dad after I have worked all week without seeing
him for more than a few hours each day. Granted, I am *kinda* looking
forward to getting back to my career and using a different part of my
brain, I'm just apprehensive about the time away from my son, trusting
someone else to influence and teach and nurture him, and dealing with
the anticipated "mommy guilt"

I hear you. I felt enormously guilty when I went back to work when my kids were 5 and almost-2, but it was time. And the readers really pulled me through going back.

The first thing I want to say is that I think this is a great time to go back. Age 3 can be seriously frustrating for SAH parents, because the kids go through all the independence and separation stuff right around the middle of the year, and for some kids it can be like one long 6-12-month tantrum. If you've read the Ames & Ilg book Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, you know that they observed this as normal. In fact, their number on recommendation was to get a babysitter, which still cracks me up every time I think about it.

But you're coming in to this time when he may clash with you constantly. So going back to work and leaving him with other kids to play with all day so your time with him is more focused can be a good thing. If you're lucky, things will be peaceful and lovey when you're home with him after the initial adjustment period. (If you're not, he may act out even more when he's with you and he hits the real center of the 3.5-year cranky stage. But that's another post entirely.) And, he's old enough that he can understand that moms and dads work, and that his work is to play with his friends at childcare (or the babysitter if you're having a babysitter who comes to you).

My advice is, if possible, to find a job that you like. I know, easier said than done, but I've experienced it myself and have noticed it time after time among the regular commenters that the ones who are happy about being working moms and who see the bad things about not being at home as just the price they pay (as opposed to being really tied up about it) are the ones who really enjoy what they do. Especially if you feel a sense of mission about it. I couldn't be happier about what I do and the company I work for and how we are changing things in a substantive way for kids who might otherwise be disengaging from school. And that makes it so much easier to leave my little guys in the morning. Those of you who also love your jobs are probably nodding right now. (I've also been on the opposite end of things. Remember when I quit my job to freelance? A huge part of that was because I just could not stand to leave my kids to do work I thought didn't mean anything to anyone, least of all me. I bet lots of others of you are nodding and maybe crying right now agreeing with that statement. If so, I'm sorry, and I hope the right thing for you falls into your lap.)

The other key is to find childcare that you're happy with. Because of the way the economy of childcare works in NYC, I've had babysitters/nannies, not center-based daycare. And we've had some amazing, amazing nannies and a couple of mediocre ones and one really bad one who let me wonder for several hours where my children were (not acceptable). So you might not find the exact right situation for you straight out of the box. But if you know what your priorities are, you'll be able to find good care that you're satisfied with.

If you've got a job you like and childcare you're happy with, everything else will fall into place, although you'll still feel like Lucy in the Candy Factory for awhile. The thing that helps me most, when I remember to do it, is to plan out my outfits for the week, dinners for the week, and kids' clothes for the week on Sundays. Then I don't have to think so much when the pressure's on.

Readers, what say you? About any of this. Tips and tricks? What's really important about working? How hard it can be to work? Having a three-year-old?

Second verse

Having a second child can suck, no?

I mean, let's all assume the disclaimer that we love our children and would give our lives for them, and are thrilled to have been able to have a first child and a second and more if we have them, and we wouldn't trade them for $50 billion or all the uninterrupted reading time in the world. And to all those of you still in the struggle to have your second (or first, or third, or fourth, or wherever you're stuck) child, we wish there was a way we could make it all happen painlessly and easily and for free and with no emotional stress for you and RIGHT NOW. So no one here is being ungrateful, and we wanted this child.

But.

It's hard. The dividing of the energy and awareness. The two conflicting needs. The knowing what's coming next and just wishing you could either fast-forward to it or through it. The insecurity of having felt like you were finally figuring out how to parent #1 and then #2 comes along and is an Entirely Different Person and you're, in a lot of ways, at square one all over again.

And you just feel bone-tired all the time, and cranky, and incompetent. It's like being in a snowglobe that's just been shaken violently.

I'm hoping that those of us who've survived the first year of having more than one child can give some support and perspective to those of you still in it. I'll start:

Consistency is for suckers. Your second child is not your first child, and the sooner you can connect with that and make decisions based on that, the better it will be for everyone. My first child was a Tension Increaser, so I couldn't let him cry for even 30 seconds or he'd escalate for hours and never fall asleep. My second child needed to cry to release enough tension to fall asleep. I struggled with letting him cry for weeks before I gave in to letting him create his own white noise, and then sleep became so much easier for all of us. If I'd really connected with the idea that they could be so different, I'd have saved a lot of struggle. Giving each of your kids what they *need* is good parenting. As long as you're not actually favoring one over the other, you don't have to make things equal or do things the same way you did with your first.

This isn't the rest of your life. Wow. I can still remember waking up in the morning and thinking, "How am I going to do this for the rest of my life??" Well, it's not. Even though the days all seem the same right now, at a certain point you'll find yourself being annoyed that your kids can't agree on which DVR'd episode of Phineas & Ferb to watch together. And that will, honestly, be the worst thing that happens to you in a four-hour stretch. There's light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes kids are jerks. Yes, the precious, rainbow-pooping lights of your life, but jerks nonetheless. Kids are little teeny people, and people all act like jerks, intentionally or not, every once in awhile. It's ok to be in touch with the fact that your kid's not doing you any favors. And, I'd argue, it's really really ok to let kids who are old enough to process it know when they've hurt your feelings.

You're not the only one. Remember when you had your first kid, and people kept saying things like "Treasure these precious moments" and you felt like a horrible monster because it was so hard, and then you met just one person who was willing to say "Of course I love my baby but this is way worse than I thought it would be"? Well, yeah. This was way worse than I thought it would be. (But then it got way better.)

FWIW, I felt like things got sharply better when my younger one was about 11 months old.

Now, anyone else out there who feels like they're mostly on the other side of the shock of having a sibling for your first one? What do you have for parents still in the trenches? At what point did it get better?