Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

AIDSWalk 2007  0

Posted on September 29th, 2007. About News and Politics, Ramblings.

One might presume from the title that I participated in AIDSWalk 2007, but in fact I did not. However, just now Evan and I were watching the evening news and were informed that Seattle’s AIDSWalk took place today at Volunteer Park. It jogged my memory a bit.

In 1995, I participated in AIDSWalk in Columbia, South Carolina. I was 16 years old, a sophomore in high school in a small town (Chapin, SC), and remember seeing a poster somewhere advertising the walk. It was the "second annual" event at that time. 1995 may not seem like that long ago, but attitudes in South Carolina were so different then. I had been a community theater enthusiast, and because of this met several very talented and kind people, whom I later learned were homosexual. Several knew people who were HIV positive, and my young mind understood that wonderful people could be afflicted with this disease.

I began asking my friends at school whether they would accompany me to the walk in Columbia, but either they were not interested or their parents would not allow it. I drove myself to the event, alone, not knowing a soul downtown that Saturday morning. However, I was quickly embraced by fellow walkers and activists, and we enjoyed our 8k walk around the city. I remember a member of my family (who shall remain anonymous) asking me that night: "Did you have fun with the AIDS people?"

The following morning, I eagerly thumbed through the Sunday newspaper, The State, to read the article covering AIDSWalk – and there was not one. I registered my discontent – it was the birth of my first ever letter-to-the-editor, which was published the next week.

Just two years later, as the president of the National Honor Society, I took five classmates downtown to participate in AIDSWalk ’97, and the turnout in the park was tremendous compared to just two years earlier. The local news cameras interviewed participants, musicians played on a stage, etc. For AIDSWalk ’98, Evan joined me, as I was then a freshman at the University of South Carolina and had met my companion!

I used to believe, back in 1995, that everything important had already been accomplished, and there was nothing left for me to do. What a difference a little perspective gives a person. I have watched this disease grow from a fatal illness smothered in discrimination to a chronic infection managed with medication with better understanding and empathy from those around them, and of course – from an AIDSWalk not even covered in the local newspaper to annual AIDSWalks all over the country where thousands show up to participate.

Gabriel sleeps ALL OF THE WAY through the night!  0

Posted on September 27th, 2007. About Baby Dodds.

In my previous posting, I announced that Gabriel had slept through the night in that he made it almost seven hours, only days after transitioning to his crib and beginning his new schedule. However, two nights later, he slept from 10PM until 6AM – a full night of sleep. Evan and I were so proud of our little guy! He has learned to suck his thumb this week, and I think it is contributing to his ability to comfort himself back to sleep when he wakes up during the night. He was up once last night, quickly returning to sleep. And all the while, he seems perfectly content in his crib. Allow me to once again express my amazement over how quickly this has occurred.

It’s back to work for me on Monday – I know it has to happen, but I’m incredibly sad to be leaving him each day after spending nearly all day every day of his life with him so far. I’m so grateful that Evan will be caring for him during the month of October, but I’m still going to miss him so much. I love having a son!

Gabriel sleeps through the night!  1

Posted on September 24th, 2007. About Baby Dodds.

For the first nine weeks of my son’s life, I fell into a category of parenting which I now know to be called "attachment parenting." When he cried, I picked him up. If he didn’t want to sleep in his Pack-N-Play next to our bed, I placed him in bed with me. He wouldn’t nap by himself during the day, so he slept on my shoulder or next to me in my bed. What if he didn’t want to take a nap? No worries – he didn’t have to take one! I would just carry him around the house all day to avoid any crying. When we did run into crying, nursing him seemed to do the trick. When it didn’t, I would just hold him, and then try nursing again. I was told that if I didn’t nurture him in this way, that if I allowed him to cry and didn’t "meet his needs," he would grow up with a sense of insecurity. I was feeling, to put it mildly, exhausted, and my back was, let’s say, aching. Dinner was hardly ever ready when Evan arrived home, and the house was a mess. But I loved Gabriel and thought this was the best way to nurture him.

After the two month checkup, we decided to try transitioning him to his crib in the nursery. The first night, he slept for a few hours in it, and after the 1AM feeding ended up in bed with us. The second night was the same story. The third night, he woke up at 10PM, and then at midnight before coming to bed with us. On the fourth night, he woke up at 9:30PM and was so fussy, and I so tired, that I brought him to bed with me that early. On the following morning, I could not stand it. I had not slept in two nights. When he is next to me, my sleep, when it actually comes, is so shallow as I am so aware of his presence. He was fussy throughout the day, and many of our playtimes were strained. And, of course, it was difficult to nap because when he would sleep, it was on me. So I decided something had to change, and fortunately, Evan was supportive of this.

On Sept. 19th, at 4AM, I called my mother (fortunately three hours ahead of me, as she lives in South Carolina), nearly hysterical after the two consecutive sleepless nights. She informed me that her friend’s daughter-in-law placed her baby on a schedule using a technique outlined in On Becoming Babywise, but she herself had not read the book and didn’t know whether to recommend it. Later that day, I spoke with two friends, both of whom are pediatrics residents, and both assured me that he was going to have to be placed in his crib that night and cry for a bit, with Evan or I going in to reassure him at intervals (the Ferber method). Consistency was key. Being nearly ten weeks old, they felt Gabriel was old enough to learn to comfort himself (Ferber says four months).

I also began reading On Becoming Babywise. I realized I was doing several things the authors recommend against, and decided to try their logic to see if it was successful, knowing I could go back after a few days if it was not working. The technique is this: in each cycle, there is a feeding, followed by awake time, followed by a nap. That’s it. Nursing to sleep is one thing I was doing that they advised against, as the thought is that the baby associates feeding with sleeping or comfort. Also, others are unable to comfort the baby if the mother isn’t available. Also, I had been letting Gabriel snack all day every day, another mistake. I was not making him take naps – another mistake. Babies need sleep, and he was not getting it, thus resulting in discomfort in the evenings when he was exhausted. And the biggest mistake I was making was bringing him to bed with me when he didn’t want to sleep in his crib.

On the first night, I fed him, spent some awake time with him, and we placed him in the crib. He cried for 40 minutes, with us comforting him at five minute intervals. Then, suddenly, he was asleep. He slept until 2:30AM, when he fed, and then slept until 5:30AM. I was amazed. The next day, we both felt better, and I placed him on the feed-awake-asleep cycle. That night, he went into his crib, and fell asleep after 11 minutes of crying (again with comforting). He slept until 3:15AM. We continued the feed-awake-asleep cycle the following day, and that night, he cried for TWO MINUTES and then fell asleep, again sleeping until about 3:15AM. Then came the weekend – he was willing to go down for naps in his crib (for the most part), playtimes were so much happier, and he seemed to be starting to schedule himself with our guidance. I also realized I was not having to hold him every minute, but that he still loved being cuddled! Then, last night – it happened. He used to wake up at 4AM, ready to start his day, but last night, after falling asleep at 9:45PM (crying for about two minutes), he slept until 4:30AM – nearly seven hours, and past the time when he was waking up before. After a feeding, he was asleep again by 5. I got six straight hours of restful sleep, and another hour after I put him back to bed.

I cannot believe this is the same baby who would not sleep well a week ago. I honestly thought he was going to be six months old, and I was going to be going crazy back at work from the sleep deprivation at home. I never dreamed he would be sleeping for seven hours at night at ten weeks of age, nor that it would take only several days of scheduling to make it happen. I was also skeptical that allowing him to take multiple naps during the day would result in his being up even more at night, but it seems that his being more well-rested during the day allows him to relax enough to sleep for a prolonged period at night.

So a huge milestone has been reached! I think every parent just hates to hear his or her baby cry and interprets it as a sign of distress. By preventing his crying by always holding him or bringing him to our bed, I think I was making things worse. It is still tough to hear him cry, but fortunately, he cries so much less overall now than he did before, because he’s well-rested and content!

I love my precious son and look forward to so many wonderful times ahead – times we can both enjoy because we’re both refreshed each morning and feeling happy.

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Babies and red lights  0

Posted on September 20th, 2007. About Ramblings.

Since having a baby, red lights have become my enemy. Some parents out there will know what I mean – little ones in their rear-facing carseats like to keep moving, and during the late afternoon hours, a red light can send them into an insane fussy state.

Now, I get that traffic lights provide order to our society. What I don’t get is why drivers who have no intention of making a right turn choose to place themselves at the beginning of the right lane when coming up on a red light, thus preventing all of the cars with their right turn signals on behind them from making that right turn. If you approach a red light, and your intention is to continue straight through an intersection, I beg you – as the mother of a baby who can scream like you wouldn’t believe when the car is still – please do not select the right lane if there is another lane available. Please.

Go Cocks!  2

Posted on September 12th, 2007. About Baby Dodds, Sports.

My alma mater, the University of South Carolina, defeated the University of Georgia on the football field this past weekend. Georgia was ranked #11, and my gamecocks were not included in the Top 25 – but guess what?! THEY ARE NOW! They are 2–0 this season and ranked #17 after their impressive performance against the Bulldogs on Saturday.

How to explain their stellar season opening? Perhaps this results from the enthusiasm of their competent coach. Or perhaps it is because of the birth of their newest fan.

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Am I right, G?

Bring Back Happy Apple!  6

Posted on September 11th, 2007. About Uncategorized.

Prior to Gabriel’s birth, my mother sent me several of my favorite toys from my days as an infant. I was delighted that she had saved Happy Apple, which she reports was a preferred toy of both my brother and me. I found a picture online that captures the essence of both the apple and the box in which it was packaged.

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In 2003 I was giving a baby shower for a dear friend, the theme of which was “our favorite childhood toys.” I immediately determined I was going to give her a Happy Apple, but after two separate trips to Toys R Us and some research, I realized Happy Apple was no longer made. What a tragedy! For those who never had a Happy Apple, it is basically a plastic apple with a weight in the base and a bell inside that makes a “dingle dingle” sound as the baby pushes it. It remains upright because of the presence of the weight.

So, I was disappointed – why stop making such a cool toy? Then, when Mom sent my Happy Apple to me to give to Gabriel, I was excited that he would have the chance to play with it. And he does – he loves it. It’s the one toy he consistently enjoys at the young age of two months. It’s teaching him to reach, to touch, to focus. It has been awesome to watch him learning from it.

Just after he was born was when startling headlines appeared about Mattel/Fisher-Price (now one company) and the presence of toxins, including lead-based paint, in many of their products. Production has now been outsourced to China, and their toys are no longer produced here in the United States. Following this news, I noticed on my Happy Apple that strangely uncommon phrase: “Made in U.S.A.” Wow, truly an antique.

I would like to call on Fisher-Price to bring back Happy Apple! Bring back what Happy Apple stands for – happy infants and young children, learning, from a simple, yet so clever, toy, crafted by Americans and safe to enjoy.

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