#CatTravels: Tips for traveling with a baby

By April 4, 2017 #BabyFox, #CatTravels

I’m not going to lie: the idea of traveling with my 4-month-old son was borderline terrifying.

But my husband was flying to Japan for work for the last time and we figured this would be a great chance to tag along. His trip would be paid for, our son would was under 2 and could fly free, and I was still on maternity leave. The plan was to fly up my mom — she hadn’t been to Japan before — to help with the baby. It was the perfect scenario.

Well, except for the “traveling with a baby” part.

I have friends who have taken their newborns everywhere — to Disneyland, to ski resorts, to Paris — so I knew it wasn’t impossible.

But I’ve also been on many flights where I’ve witnessed well-intended parents struggling with crying, inconsolable babies. It’s not pretty. For anyone.

And I was terrified I’d be that mom.

So I asked all of my friends for help. I read every blog I could find. And then I did a trial run — a day trip to Maui — to test some of these techniques and figure out what works with my kid. (Because every kid is different.)

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Plan But Stay Flexible. I’m not one of those over-planners when it comes to trips; I prefer flexible itineraries that leave room for wandering and random discoveries. But with a baby — and a mom who’s never been to Japan — it was necessary to have a solid plan in place. I researched kid-friendly hotels in Tokyo and mapped out routes to various destinations in the city. I needed to know how, exactly, we’d get from the airport to the hotel, and whether the hotel was located near convenience stores that would carry baby essentials such as diapers and wipes. I came up with a schedule of what we were going to do every day we were there — but I kept it flexible. We didn’t know how the baby would be, so we didn’t book a three-hour train ride to Kyoto. But we kept that option open. (Turned out, we didn’t make the trek to Kyoto and took an hourlong train to Kamakura instead.)

Know the Weather. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much weather can affect a trip with a baby. Not only will you have to pack different clothing, you’ll have to bring different gear, too. It was in the 40s (Fahrenheit) while we were in Tokyo, and we figured we’d buy whatever we needed there. But what we couldn’t buy — and we were so glad we brought with us — was a rain guard for the stroller. Though it didn’t rain, the clear cover kept the baby cozy and warm.

Car Seats, Taxis and Public Transportation. Before you even start packing, you’ll have to answer this basic question: are you planning to rent a car or use public transportation? If you’re going to rent a car, I’d recommend bringing your own car seat (and preferably one that snaps right into your stroller, like the Britax B-Agile/B-Safe Travel System). Most car rental companies offer car seats — for around $15 a day — which is a great option, but as we found out on Maui, these car seats aren’t always a good fit for your child. The one we got with our rental car was too big for our newborn, and we had to stuff swaddles and burp cloths into the seat just to keep him secure. Not the safest, but there wasn’t anything else we could do at that point.

If you choose to use public transportation — which is what we did in Japan — you’ll have to figure out what that will be like. In Tokyo, for example, you can’t take strollers onto the subways. (Though we did see mothers sneak in with their strollers if the cars weren’t that full.) That meant we would have to quickly pack up the stroller and lug it onto the train with us. So the stroller we were planning to bring mattered. Instead of something big and bulky, we borrowed a Babyzen YOYO+ stroller, which collapses into something small enough to fit in overhead compartments on airplanes. (And yes, borrow when possible.)

In Japan — as in many countries — there are no rules about car seats in taxis. And you won’t find them. There is, though, a chauffeur service in Tokyo called Cocoro Taxi, which is run by women, that caters to families with babies and the elderly. These cars are outfitted with car seats and booster seats, making traveling safer and easier. Look for options like that wherever you’re traveling.

Stroller or Baby Carrier? We did both. A friend of mine who travels to Japan with her three kids a few times a year explained that the stroller is really for all the bags you won’t be able to hold if you’re wearing your baby. And it’s true. It was too hard to wear my baby and carry the diaper bag. A stroller also enabled us to nap him — make sure it reclines! — and change him without having to find a public restroom (which isn’t the easiest to do in Tokyo). Since we were bringing a new stroller, we made sure to use it for a couple of weeks before the trip, just to get the baby used to it.

Seats Matter. We flew to Japan on Hawaiian Airlines. Though I made the reservations online, I called customer service to secure bulkhead seats, which gave us extra leg room and space. It cost $150 per seat extra, but it was so worth it. This gave us more space to spread out, to stand and stretch out. It made a huge difference. (You can’t sit in the exit aisle if you have a baby. Passengers need to be adults and able to assist others in the event of an emergency.)

Bassinets Onboard. Some airlines, including Hawaiian Airlines, have bassinets on board. You have to reserve them ahead of time, and sometimes there are limits and restrictions. For example, the bassinet on this airline can only accommodate a baby weighing less than 25 pounds. (Our baby was about 20.) And if we wanted to use it, we would have had to change seats because the bassinet couldn’t work in the bulkhead aisle. Some airlines, such as Japan Airlines, are equipped with formula and diapers. It pays to do a little research and pay more for a better flight experience.

Strollers at the Airport? Some parents say baby carriers are better in airports, but I’d have to disagree. While carriers take up far less room, it limits you on what you can do with your baby. Since mine was too young to walk, I’d have to carry him. And since we were flying internationally, we would be at the airport for at least two hours. There was no way I was going to carry him for that long. Having the stroller — and one that reclines! — saved us. Our baby could nap comfortably and we didn’t have to physically carry him the whole time. We gate-checked the stroller on our way to Tokyo (it was waiting for us once we deplaned) and took it on board as a carry-on on the return flight.

Pack Smart. The carry-on diaper bag is important. You have to prepare for the unexpected — like getting stuck on the tarmac for two hours (which has happened to me) or delays to your flight (which has happened more often than I can count). We brought enough diapers, formula, wipes and change of clothes for two days, just in case. We made sure to have plastic bags (for trash, poopy diapers, wet clothing) and medicines for both baby and us. Pacifiers were key, too, since that was the easiest way to get him to nap during the flight. (Be sure to attach them to clips like this one from Matimati Baby, so you don’t lose them.) I also downloaded apps on my iPhone to distract him while he was awake. There are tons of checklists online; bring what you need — and then some. There are no convenience stores onboard! (If you decide to bring breastmilk and/or liquid formula on the plane, put them in a separate bag and ready to pull out for TSA. You’ll need to let the TSA officer know that you’re carrying liquids for your baby in excess of the 3.4-ounce rule. Read more about that here.)

Board First or Last? This is entirely up to you. Ideally, you would have someone else — husband, traveling partner — board with the carry-ons to secure the overhead space, while you stay back with the baby. But that’s not always possible. Since we had bulkhead seats with lots of space, we didn’t mind boarding early. We wanted to nab the overhead space since we would need to have quick and easy access to baby essentials. (Turns out, there was enough room in front of us for all of our carry-ons, so we didn’t need the overhead space.)

Feed, Nurse, Pacify at Takeoff and Landing. This is tried-and-true advice. Babies need something to suck on in order to clear their ears during the altitude change. We timed it so it would be his feeding time right around takeoff. He took the bottle and didn’t fuss at all.

Expect the Worst. I know that sounds very pessimistic, but it’s helpful advice. If you expect the worst — a baby who screams for the entire 10-hour plane ride — you can plan accordingly. You’ll pack what you need. You’ll be patient and apologetic to your fellow passengers. I’ve even seen some parents pass out bags filled with candy and a note of apology, just in case their kid cried during the flight. It’s always better to be prepared than not.

Choose Your Hotel Wisely: That same girlfriend who recommended bringing a stroller also sent me a list of kid-friendly hotels in Tokyo. We chose the Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku for several reasons. The Airport Limousine bus had a stop right at the hotel, making the trek from Haneda Airport quick and easy. (And it only cost around $12 per person.) It was located just a couple of blocks from the busiest train station in the world; meaning we could get anywhere from this one station. There were lots of convenience stores and restaurants nearby, so getting food and essentials wouldn’t be that hard. The rooms were slightly larger than the typical hotel rooms in Japan; more space for baby and me. The hotel also had cribs guests could borrow. (We ended up not using it, but we did get a guard rail for our bed, which was perfect for us.) And the best part? The hotel had coin-operated washers and dryers on every floor. That meant we could wash our clothes and not have to pack as much. It was great!

Consider a Travel Bassinet. I’ve had friends who used a portable bassinet — like this one from BRICA — that works well in small spaces (like Japanese hotel rooms). If you plan on doing this, be sure to get it well ahead of your trip and use it. You want your baby to be used to the way it feels.

Buy, Don’t Bring. If you’re traveling within the U.S., consider ordering diapers, formula and wipes — all the bulky stuff — from Amazon or Target and have it delivered to your hotel. It saves you a lot time, energy and money. In our case, it would cost too much to have those items delivered to our hotel in Shinjuku, so we did the next best thing: buy everything there. (You’re going to throw away the diapers, wipes and formula anyway. Why bring that stuff with you?) We did a lot of research on the baby formula in Japan. Since we weren’t sure if our baby would take to the new formula, we brought some of his powdered formula in Ziploc bags — that was easier to pack than the canister — and a bunch of ready-to-feed liquid bottles, just in case. I also changed his formula at home, just to see how he would react to something new. Since he was quick to adjust to a different formula here, I figured he would have no problem with the formula in Japan. And I was right; he transitioned easily.

Swaddles are Awesome. I’ve long been a fan of swaddles, especially those soft, muslin ones. But I never loved them more than while traveling. They are so versatile. I used them as nursing covers, stroller covers, changing pads, blankets. They’re great. Bring several.

Plan Feedings and Naps. This was probably the most difficult task: planning where and when I would fed and nap the little guy. I didn’t want to have to return to the hotel room every three hours to feed him, so I knew I had to find a place to do this while on the go. And it wasn’t easy. There aren’t a lot of public places to nurse/feed your newborn in Tokyo — and the cold weather didn’t help. The best place, we found, was Starbucks. These coffee shops are set up for people to sit and linger for hours. And they almost always have restrooms. We weren’t the only mothers holing up in Starbucks, feeding babies and sipping on much-needed lattes!

Stick to the Same Routine. As much as possible, do what you normally do at home. We bathed the baby at around the same time, read his favorite books, and swaddled him before bedtime. We tried to keep the routine similar so he would know what to expect.

No Matter What You Do, It May Not Work. We were really lucky. Our kid never fussed, he slept well in the hotel room and napped in the stroller, he had no problem with the new formula. He was the easiest travel companion. But, that said, it was still hard to travel with a baby. We had twice the amount of luggage. We were constantly worrying about him. We couldn’t eat at restaurants, mostly because many of the eateries in Tokyo don’t accommodate strollers and babies. And we were back at the hotel by 6 p.m. so the baby could sleep. It was an entirely different trip from the ones I had been on. We couldn’t do the same things — no onsens, no late-night karaoke, no stops at izakaya — and we had to always find places to sit and rest. IT WAS HARD. And not everything went according to plan. We were planning to walk to Enoshima, a small island off Kamakura. But it was too cold and the walk a little too long, so we headed right back to the train station and back to Shinjuku. And that’s OK. I had no expectations that this was going to be easy or that I would get to do everything on my bucket list. There were just a few things we wanted to do and see — namely, eat a mochi donut from Mister Donut and shop at Tokyu Hands — and we got to do that. And that was enough.

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#CatTravels: Five days in Tokyo

By March 15, 2017 #BabyFox, #CatTravels, Food

The idea of traveling with a newborn had never sounded appealing.

I imagined having to walk up and down the narrow airplane aisles, cradling a screaming baby and apologizing to a very annoyed coach class.

But my husband was going to Japan to speak at FoodEx, a huge trade show for the food and beverage industry, and invited me to tag along.

With the baby.


Landon would be almost four months old. We’d be there in March, when the temperatures would hover around the 40s. I would be back at work part time.

Did I mention I’d be traveling with an infant?

It had been four years since I’d been to Japan. And this might be my last international trip for awhile, until Landon gets a little older and can actually appreciate it.

So I said yes. Sure. Why not.

The deal was, though, I’d take my mom with me. I needed someone to help while my husband worked. I couldn’t (wouldn’t) travel with Landon alone.

Traveling with a baby wasn’t going to be easy. (I’ll blog about this later.) We already knew this. So we planned on just five days in Tokyo, with the option — maybe — of spending the day somewhere outside of the city. Maybe Kyoto. Maybe Kamakura. We’d just see how it went.

I’m not going to lie: it was challenging, even with a perfectly behaved baby. (Which he was.) We were back at our hotel in the afternoon and rarely ventured out at night. Still, we managed to pack in a lot of great experiences — it was my mom’s first time to Japan — in less than a week.

Here are some of the highlights:

Staying in Shinjuku

On the recommendation of a friend who travels to Tokyo several times a year, we booked a room at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, which is just a couple of blocks away from Shinjuku Station, the busiest transportation hub in the world used by more than 3 million people a day. (It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true.) I liked the convenient location, the proximity to restaurants and a big shopping complex, and the fact that every floor had coin-operated laundry facilities. This is huge if you’re trying to pack light.

Shinjuku, itself, isn’t the most attractive ward of Tokyo. It’s busy, crowded and, in some parts, dirty. It’s the administrative seat for the government of Tokyo — but it also boasts Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red-light district. The Don Quijote there is practically a sex shop!

The basement floor of Takashimaya Department Store boasts a variety of food items, including this vendor selling all sorts of ume.

It’s always fun to see the expensive fruits sold at these department stores.

Takashimaya Times Squares has a Tokyu Hands, my favorite lifestyle store in Japan.

You can spend an entire day at Shinjuku Station — and not go anywhere! A new shopping mall called NEWoMan opened recently, with a mix of boutiques, restaurants, cafés and bakeries. And near the station’s south exit is Takashimaya Times Square, a combination of the famous Takashimaya Department Store and a mall. Takashimaya has 15 floors, including the popular food basement common to all Japanese department stores. We found — and ate — ume, waffles, tempura, chocolates, even dessert vinegar. (Yes, flavored vinegar you sip.)

There’s even a Tokyu Hands here, my all-time favorite shop in Tokyo. This chain focuses on hobbies, home improvement and lifestyle products. I could spend all day browsing the interesting kitchen utensils and mechanical pencils. Seriously.

Mister Donut

You can’t visit Tokyo without visiting a Mister Donut.

Trust me. You’ll go once — and you’ll make a point to go back every single time you’re in Japan. Maybe every single day you’re there. (I’ve actually done that.)

Mister Donut is a donut chain that started in the United States in 1956 and is now headquartered in Japan, where it has more than 1,300 stores. The signature doughnut here is the pon de ringu, a ring-shaped mochi doughnut that’s super soft and topped with a sugary glaze. (Some are creme-filled, too.) But honestly, the plain glazed yeast and old-fashioned doughnuts are incredible.

We walked a mile from our hotel in 45-degree weather just for a doughnut. OK, six of them.

Quick Stop at Joshuya

Inside Joshuya, a fishing store in Shibuya

We had a couple of hours to kill before my husband had to go to a meeting in Ginza, so we caught the metro to Shibuya to browse Joshuya, a three-story fishing shop. If you love fishing — saltwater, fly fishing, freshwater — you’ll love this store, which sells everything from rods to crab traps to lures to fishing vests. I mean, whatever you need — or never thought you needed — you can find here.

Sensō-ji and Nakamise-dori

I’m not a huge fan of temples, personally, but I do love the shops that lead up to many of the temples in Tokyo.

For example, Asakusa is home to Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensō-ji, and it’s a quick 20-minute train ride from Shinjuku. (As opposed to a three-hour trip on the shinkansen to Kyoto.) The temple grounds are beautiful and picturesque. But I love the lively Nakamise-dori that approaches the temple. The 80-plus shops here sell everything from furoshiki (traditional Japanese cloth wrap) to freshly made senbei.

Agemanju is the specialty here.

Inside an agemanju.

The speciality here, though, is the agemanju, or deep-fried manju. Manju are small, round, steamed cakes with a sweet filling, often anko (red bean paste). The cakes here are coated in a tempura batter and deep-fried, giving it a nice, crunchy texture. While anko is the most common (and popular) filling, you can get these filled with seseame, matcha, kabocha pumpkin, sweet potato and custard. They cost about 100 to 150 yen (or around $1.25 each).

Ginza on Sunday

Sunday morning in Ginza.

If you’re in Tokyo on a Sunday, this is the day you should hit the shopping district of Ginza.

The main street — Chuo — is closed to vehicles on Sundays, turning the street into one big sidewalk for shoppers. We leisurely strolled down the main drag, wandering into some of the area’s popular shops including Mitsukoshi Department Store and UNIQLO. Though it was crowded, it didn’t feel that way because of all walking space. I wouldn’t venture here on any other day.


Halfway between Ueno and Asakusa is Kappabashi-dori, or Kitchen Town. This area is populated with shops that supply Tokyo’s restaurant trade, selling knives, kitchen utensils, rice bowls, furniture, ovens and the plastic display food you see in nearly every restaurant window.

Plastic food FTW!

What you won’t find? Tourists.

Ueno’s Ameya Yokocho

It’s fun to walk around the market streets in Tokyo, particularly Ameya Yokocho (or Ameyoko) right outside Ueno Station. It runs about half a mile along the tracks of the Yamanote Line, the former site of a black market for American goods. Today, there are stalls — and hawkers — selling backpacks, perfume, running shoes, watches, toys, fresh fruit, spices and candy. There are restaurants here, too.

I love fresh fruit on sticks!

These special manju filled with lima bean paste are only found here.

My mom enjoyed browsing the shops here, buying dried scallops from a vendor who reduced the price by $10 USD. He said he had just harvested the scallops the day before. Right. And dried them in a day. OK. Sure. (She bought a bag, anyway.)

See the Sakura

Cherry blossom trees bloom starting from the end or March through early May in Japan. I didn’t think we’d see any — until we walked through the 133-acre Ueno Park and saw some early-blooming trees! We really lucked out.

In Japan, there’s a traditional custom called hanami, the viewing of the transient beauty of the sakura flowers. In modern times, this custom is celebrated by having an outdoor party or picnic beneath the cherry blossom trees. Paper lanterns are hung at this park during the height of the sakura season. These picnics involve eating, drinking and playing music. It was too cold for us to even sit for longer than 10 minutes here. We admired the trees, then prompted hailed a cab and headed back to the hotel.

Eat Monjayaki

My husband spent the last year traveling to Japan for work. And every time he’s been there, he’s had monjayaki.

Monjayaki — or monja — is a type of Japanese pan-fried batter very similar to okonomiyaki. Various chopped ingredients — onions, seafood, cabbage, carrots, chicken — are fried on a grill then mixed with a kind of gravy and often topped with cheese. You eat directly from the grill using small spatulas. The best parts are the crispy bits that caramelize. It’s a very interactive way to eat.


It was too hard lugging around a stroller, wearing a 20-pound infant and trying to find warm places to feed him that we decided to ditch plans to travel to Kyoto and spend the day in the charming coastal town of Kamakura.

Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture, is about an hour train ride from Shinjuku. It was the former de facto capital of Japan as the seat of the Shogunate and the Regency during the Kamakura Period. It boasts a lot of beautiful and important temples — but that’s not why we were there.

I wanted to take my mom to Komachi-dori, a street that runs from Kamakura Station to Kamakura Hachiman-gu. This street market is lined with more than 250 restaurants, boutiques, cafés and stores selling souvenirs.

We ate everything on this street, from croquettes (shown here) to meat pies.

Beautifully packaged dried fruits.

Tsukiji Fish Market

The iconic Tsukiji Fish Market was supposed to move in 2016 to Toyosu in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics. But so far, it’s still in its original location, walking distance from Ginza. (The surrounding retail market, though, is supposed to stay.) The market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, believe it or not, and the public is welcome to view the early-morning auction (limited attendance) or browse the market itself (opens after 10 a.m.).

My mom wasn’t that interested in the actual fish market, but she really enjoyed the shops and restaurants that surround it. There were stalls selling knives, dried seafood, spices, teas, fresh produce and hot foods.

Fresh wasabi — something you can’t find in Hawai‘i.

There are sushi restaurants serving the freshest seafood — with lines in the early morning!

This stand sells freshly made ramen.


The highlight for me was eating at my favorite tachigui, or stand-up ramen shop, here. I love the bright and light dashi, house-made noodles and meaty char siu.

Plus, it was cold. So a hot bowl of ramen really hit the spot.

It wasn’t the easiest trip, with lugging diapers and formula and a stroller strapped to my shoulder. The city is full of stairs and narrow alleys, making it challenging to get around. But still, despite all that, we managed to pack in a lot of fun experiences in just a few days.

Too bad Landon won’t remember any of it.

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Three months in and I’m still learning

By February 27, 2017 #BabyFox

The advice I heard the most is this: “Enjoy every moment. It goes by fast.”

Funny. I want it to go by fast.

I can’t wait for this little guy to be big enough to go surfing with me, to hike with us and spot his first ‘apapane, to help me bake sugar cookies, to pick out his own books at the bookstore, to jump in my arms and hug me until I can’t breathe. (My husband would like him to change his own diaper; that would definitely be nice.)

Sure, I’ve enjoyed moments during these first three months. But they’re moments. He sleeps a lot — which, I’m not going to lie, is really nice — and, for the first few weeks, he wasn’t quite aware of what was happening around him. His world was very, very small, his sight limited to shapes and light.

Now, though, he looks at me, responds to my smile, reaches for his toys, listens as I read him books, even laughs when Indy licks his ears. It makes all the sleepless nights and zombie days so worthwhile.

Still. I want him to grow up.

It’s interesting, though, how much has changed in such a short amount of time. Every week he’s different, he’s older, he learns something new. This week, for example, he found his thumb. Next week, who knows!

And we’ve changed, too, and we’re constantly learning something new. This week, I learned that preschools are expensive (like, $1,000 a month) and some are already filled in two years. (I was told I should have applied when I was pregnant. That’s insane.) I’ve also learned that not all children’s books are created equal; some are actually lame. And I’ve learned that babies — or, at least mine — love techno music. Just trust me on that.

But there’s a lot I still need to learn — or accept.

I’m still struggling with this new lifestyle. I can’t just hit the surf in the morning or meet up with friends — not without securing childcare in advance or packing a diaper bag full of emergency items including a change of clothes for me. (Yes, poop happens.) I’m watching friends on Facebook travel to exotic places or writing books or saving monk seals. Not me. I’m wiping butts (at least a cute one) and wondering when the last time it was that I shaved my legs. Or where my razor is.

But it’ll come. The adjustment, the change, the acceptance that life will forever be different. Better.

Maybe I’ll learn that next month.

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Dentists: A Love Story

By February 14, 2017 Musings

No one believes me when I tell them that I actually enjoy going to the dentist.

No, I don’t have perfect teeth — I spent 11 months in braces and have more fillings than I’d like to admit — and I only floss when I have something stuck between my teeth.

I’m no poster child for dentistry.

But I do enjoy the experience of going to the dentist.

It helps that my dentist — I’ll call him Dr. H — is great. He’s efficient, gentle, quick and calm — important traits in anyone wielding extracting forceps. He doesn’t ask me complicated questions when there’s a suction hose stuck in my mouth. And he always explains what he’s doing before he does it. There’s no mystery.

I haven’t always had great experiences in the dentist chair. When I was younger, I went to a dentist that I swear would fall asleep mid-way through cleaning. When he would numb my gums, I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs. And he wasn’t gentle. I would taste blood for hours.

Still, I’ve always looked forward to regular cleanings. It’s like a spa day for your mouth. Your teeth are scraped, flossed, cleaned and polished, all in less than an hour. You can recline, listen to Shaina Twain, stare out at the Ko‘olau Mountains, in air conditioning, with no access to email or text messages. It’s like a vacation. (Especially when you have a newborn at home.)

And you can even learn something. The other day I discovered that lidocaine replaced Novocain years ago — and both taste awful and you shouldn’t swallow either. Or that gold crowns last longer than porcelain crowns and cost way less.

I learned that last part the other day, when I found out I had to replace an existing crown with a new one.

I really didn’t want to get a gold crown, even though it would be far back in my mouth and out of sight. Just the idea I’d have a gold crown in there, it just didn’t sit right with me. Teeth should be white, not reflective. But I could barely stomach paying the $600 it would cost for a gold crown, let alone three times that for a cosmetic porcelain one.

It had been awhile since I had to go the dentist for more than a routine cleaning. I had forgotten about the thin needle that delivers the lidocaine in my gums, feeling it thread through my flesh. Or that strange bubble gum taste in my mouth from whatever it was Dr. H smeared on them first.

I had forgotten how the drilling felt like a mini table saw in my mouth, like little construction workers were in there building a deck. Or the smell of something burning — maybe my flesh! — not dissimliar to a soldering iron. Or how my tongue, with a mind of its own, always wants to touch one of these tools. Stay back! I cry out in my head. You’ll regret it!

Or the Vaseline in the corner of my mouth keeping my skin there from cracking.

Or the strong desire to swallow, knowing full well you’ll be ingesting particles of bone.

Or the fear you feel when the dentist says, “OK, we didn’t numb this part, so it might hurt a little.”

I started to tense up. I know this because Dr. H said, “Relax your jaw.” And also because I had pressed my thumb nail so deep into my arm I had broken skin.

He talked about his 5-month-old grandson who’s already rolling over and eating solid food. He gave me suggestions on educational baby-friendly videos I could show my 11-week-old son. He chatted about how we use too many antibacterial products and that’s not good.

I stared out the window at the mountains, green from the thunderous rain that came down the other day. My mouth was so dry it felt like the insides would break apart. Somehow, there were four instruments in my mouth at once, including four hands. And the lidocaine was starting to wear off.

And yet, I could still think of worse places I could be.

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It actually does get better

By February 6, 2017 Musings

I’m sitting here typing while my little 9-week-old is staring at a plastic turtle filled with colorful beads.

He can sit here long enough for me to wash dishes, fold laundry, Swiffer the living room, scarf a milkshake and browse YouTube for different ways to use a ring sling. (This is exactly what I did today.)

I couldn’t have even imagined this would be possible last month.

Last month, if you recall, I was a mess. I felt defeated and helpless. I never thought I’d get three straight hours of sleep ever again. And I certainly didn’t think my baby would occupy himself long enough for me to get anything done.

While I didn’t believe it at first, I’m happy to report that yes, it does get easier.

A week into his second month, my baby is alert and responsive, he’s interested in the world around him, he actually looks at me (and not just my boobs… boys…) and — the best part — smiles. Oh, those smiles are such sweet rewards for weeks of no sleep, painful nipples and feeling like I’m trapped in this house.

Part of the change is biological: He’s older, his body is growing, his brain is developing. His digestion system seems to be working much better. (No more writhing and suffering.) He can entertain himself. He looks at and responds to us. All this makes a huge difference.

And the other part is us: We’re finally getting it. We’ve learned his different cries. We’ve figured out that babies needs to nap regularly. And we stopped stressing about the little stuff. He wants to sleep in the Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play sleeper? Let him! He needs to be carried a little longer before going to bed? Go ahead!

Every parent, every expert, every website, every book advises something — and it’s all over the place: Don’t rock your baby to sleep. You can’t spoil a baby. Breast is best. A fed baby is a happy baby. Feed on demand. Put your baby on a schedule. Don’t use a pacifier. Use a pacifier. It’s confusing and overwhelming, especially for a desperate, hopeless new parent.

And, like I did to get pregnant, I tried everything. I tried feeding on demand. (It didn’t work because I wasn’t napping him at all.) I swaddled. (That worked, but the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle didn’t.) We used a co-sleeper, then a bassinet, then a crib — all in the same week! I sampled different formulas, different bottles, different breast pumps. I have every kind of pacifier ever invented. I browsed more parenting websites and message boards than I knew existed. I called and texted every mother I knew, begging for help and advice, sometimes at 1 in the morning. And every single one responded — they’ve been here before, too — with very helpful suggestions, always ending with something along the lines of, “This worked for me, but it may not work for you” and “Good luck!”

Mothers know. No matter what you do, what you read, what you try, you will never know what’ll work. And what works with one child may not work — maybe almost never work — with another. So, basically, you’re screwed.

It’s like we’re raising this kid using trial-by-error — and, in a lot of ways, we are.

And it’s OK.

We still have a lot more to learn — like how to get him to sleep through the night. (He slept for five straight hours last night, so that’s progress!) And we still have moments of frustration, when we can’t figure out what he wants or needs. But, for the most part, we’re getting better at sticking to a schedule, getting him to sleep on his own and managing life with three hours of sleep.

And when I start to feel like life as I knew it is completely over, he smiles at me and I remember: a new life has only just begun.

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