Friday, January 28, 2011

Being a Single Mom by Choice

I am a single mom by choice.  That is to say that I chose to be a mom as a single woman.  I got pregnant on purpose, and choose to raise him alone.  I didn't do this the proper way, that's for sure.  I took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself to get pregnant.  Most women who choose to do this, well via pregnancy any way, find a donor.  They choose someone either anonymously through a sperm bank, or they find a known donor they trust and have legal agreements signed.  I basically used an ex, probably not the best choice but I have this amazing little baby boy to show for it.  I do know I want another child, sooner than later, but I will most likely go the proper route and use a sperm bank and a clinic.

As for being a parent, it is sometimes very hard but more often than not it is easier than you might think.  I don't have to ask anyone else when I make a decision about raising him, how to wean him, what to feed him, how he'll sleep.  Even what he'll wear, and the choice to use cloth rather than dispoable diapers.  It is my decision to not allow him to CIO, to go to him when he cries.  The choice to follow baby led weaning, that was all me. 

But it is also hard sometimes, when I would like for there to be someone else to watch him so I can go out or even just take care of some chores.  I do have some family that waches him when they can but I don't like to ask too often.  I think if I were smart I would have developed a broader network before having him.  But now I really do like that he is all mine.  I take him everywhere, he is getting broad exposure to life, he goes to stores, restaurants, everywhere.  There are some limits, he is a little bit too active now for movies but we saw quite a few during the summer when he was less mobile.  And I wouldn't take him to the library yet, he likes to chew on books far too much!  It does limit things sometimes.  It's been quite cold recently and I don't like to take him out in that weather, if there was someone else to watch him I could still go out myself.  Even walking the dog becomes a chore as I can't take the baby out when it is so cold, so the dog doesn't get his exercise. 

I love my choice, I love being a mom more than anything else in my life, it is amazing and wonderful, even the sleepless nights and losing my freedom.  Perhaps if I had been married when I had a child it would be harder to be alone now, but since this is all I have known it is not that hard.  I manage.  Things get done.  The house may not be as clean as it could be, the dog may gain a few winter pound, but the laundry is done, food is cooked, we have a roof over our heads, heat and electicity. 

I have been bad about sticking to a budget, spent too much money, so the things I want have been put off.  But I am starting over, trying now to save more, and meet my goals.  I use coupons, I shop sales, I stick to the budget.  I buy what we need, shop using lists and check flyers before we go to the store.  I am being frugal, and we don't go shopping more than once a week.  I don't want to deprive my son of the fun things in life, but I also want to make sure he gets things like a house someday.  And a baby brother or sister :) 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sleep Training

A lot of people on a message board I'm on do sleep training with their babies.  They follow a cry it out (CIO) method and let their babies cry, sometimes for more than an hour!  I just really do not understand it at all, how can you let a little person who cannot speak and tell you what is wrong just cry?  I do understand the temptation, it is certainly tiring when your little baby is crying and will not sleep as you think they should.  My son is just over a year now and will rarely fall asleep on his own.  He usually has a bottle in his mouth and is cuddled close to fall asleep.  He is still waking at night, not every night but often, and will want to nurse again back to sleep.  Some nights it becomes difficult, especially now that I have gone back to work.  It is hard to get up in the morning when you've been up in the middle of the night with a crying baby. 

But I would never let him CIO.  If he is up and upset there is usually a reason for it.  He may be hungry, or wet, it could be that his teeth hurt, perhaps he is just lonely or missing me.  He's currently cutting a few teeth and has been off on and since he was 4 months old.  The other night he woke up at 4:30 crying, I went in and gave him a bottle, he fell asleep and I put him back down.  Ten minutes later he woke up crying again, I went in to pick him up and could feel dampness through his sleep sack, so he had soaked not only his diaper, but his pajamas and his sleep sack!  he was probably wet and cold when he woke up the first time but I didn't notice.  If I was a proponent of CIO I probably would have left him in his bed the first time, to be cold and wet until I deemed it time to wake up. 

I have no illusions that my son probably doesn't need to have those midnight bottles, but I also know that what I think about what he needs is not really the important thing, what he thinks he needs is.  I trust that as a baby he is more in touch with his own needs than I am.  Of course I know he needs to wear a snowsuit in the cold, and a hat when he goes outside, he may not know that.  But he does know his phsyical needs in the sense of what he needs to eat. 

I have also noticed that on the days he is in daycare he is harder to get to sleep at night, I believe because he is overtired from late naps, not enough time napping, and getting up early for daycare.  It is frustrating because he needs the sleep but is more restless and wakes more often.  On the weekends he makes up for it, has great 3 hour naps and is easy to get to bed, even sleep straight through.  But I cannot take him from daycare, and hope that in time he will grow out of his need for the extra sleep. 

I have wondered for awhile if the methods I have chosen for his sleeping are the best.  There may be better ways, and there certainly would be quicker ways, but I feel this is the best for us.  I tried to wean his night bottles by diluting them, it didn't work.  I've tried to leave him in his bed, sitting beside it while he fusses, but he wants me to pick him up.  I have tried shushing and patting his back, but he gets frustrated and wants to be held and rocked. 

I know that in time I won't need to spend so much time with him, overnight or falling asleep.  He falls asleep well at daycare for his naps, he even falls asleep on his own at home for naps or at bedtime - if he is not over tired!  I try to remember, as I rock him and watch the clock tick on that this will not last forever, that he is only a baby for awhile, that there will come a time when he will not want me to hold him or rock him.  He is my son, I chose to have him, it is my responsiblity to take care of him and to help him.  It is not my job to train him, he is not a dog or a pet to teach a trick to.  He is a child, who needs to grow and learn and develop.  And who needs to be cuddled when he's upset.  Learning to self-soothe is not a skill, it's not something an infant needs to learn how to do.  Parents are there to help infants.

To be perfectly honest it angers me that mom's on that message board are all so eager to "train" their child, to teach them how to cry themselves to sleep.  I find it dissapointing that in our society this is considered normal, and acceptable.  I try to remain diplomatic but have to admit that all the posts on the topic really just make me mad!  Every child is unique and individual, they will grow and develop at their own rate, for some this will mean they can sleep straight through the night and fall asleep on their own with no problems from an early age, others it will take time.  But to do the child the disservice of not being there, of leaving them to cry alone, is teaching them to not rely on anyone, but is that really a good thing?  Teaching a child to be alone and lonely... who does that serve?  I think the parent is the only one who gains from any method of CIO.