Dear Jo: The Check-Up

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July 5, 3 years A.B. (after-baby)

Dear Jo,

The other night was a fluke. Those solid six hours turned into three-hour intervals over the last few nights. Your coffee intake has increased as a result. Of course you still can’t drink as much as you want because of the breastfeeding. And apparently the recommended amount isn’t enough to hide your exhaustion. Dr. Warner saw right through it…and your messy bun…and your jeans. Yes, you even stepped it up and put on jeans instead of yoga pants for Lyla’s 6-month well-child check-up. Of course you immediately changed when you got home. Jeans never seemed so restrictive in the past, but after months of forgiving elastic waistbands, your stomach sighed with relief when you unbuttoned the denim.


You made an effort to put yourself together, to look awake and alert, but Dr. Warner took one look at you and asked, “How are you?”

Of course you thought he was asking about Lyla and you responded accordingly. “She seems to be growing well. She’s sitting up unassisted. Still nursing well, but isn’t sleeping through the night.”

“And how are YOU?” he asked again.

“Me? Well,” you paused and laughed nervously, feeling your cheeks heat as you fumbled with how to respond. “Like I said, she isn’t sleeping through the night yet.”

Then he said something like, “I can see that.” Or maybe it was just “I see.” Let’s hope it was the latter, but honestly, you know he could see. Everyone can see it.

The exam proceeded. Measurements were fine. Development is right on track. No concerns. And then came the advice.

“You said she is still sleeping in your room at night.”

Here we go.

“Yes. We’ve chosen to co-room for now. She has a bassinet beside our bed.”

“And how is that working for you?”

“Fine. We like having her nearby for those middle-of-the-night feedings.” All four of them….

“Lyla is clearly thriving. She’s in the 80th percentile in weight. From what I see, she doesn’t need so many feedings at night. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of moms who chose to co-room are roused more easily by their baby and vice versa. Sometimes a bit of space or a wall between you can help everyone sleep a bit better. It can also help a baby learn to self soothe.”

Self soothe. Here we go.

“Which also leads me to another suggestion. She is six months now. Is she falling asleep on her own?”

Yes. If on her own means in your arms, while you rock her.

“Not usually. She likes to fall asleep before I lay her down.” That answer sounded more peaceful and less taxing than the actual process of rocking, singing, patting, shushing, right?

“Well, she’s at the developmental stage where I recommend letting her cry it out.”

I tried not to gasp.

“By that I don’t mean to put her in the crib and let her go for hours until she collapses with exhaustion. There is a more gentle approach. Proceed with her bedtime routine as normal. If you rock her, go ahead and do that, but only for a few minutes. Then, lay her in her crib and leave. If she cries, let her go for just five minutes. Then, go in, comfort her and put her to sleep as usual. The next night, let her cry for 10 minutes before putting her to sleep. Each night, increase the interval by five minutes until she falls asleep on her own.”

“You know, I’ve read a lot about crying it out and I’m just not sure….”

“I understand. Again, I’m not suggesting that you just put her in the crib an abandon her for the night. This is a modified method. I’ve never had a baby who has taken longer than a 30-minute interval to fall asleep. So, this time next week, she could be falling asleep on her own, which will lead to her self soothing in the middle of the night, so she sleeps through the night. I know it’s not easy to hear your baby cry, but I know it’s also not easy to go through your day exhausted because you didn’t get much sleep.”

He paused for a moment and looked you in the eyes. You had no response because you were too focused on not crying right there in front of him. Was your exhaustion really that obvious?

“Any other questions?”

Now was not the time for tears. Now was the time to speak up.

“Actually, I do have a question. But it’s about Emerson. I hope you don’t mind….”

“What’s going on?” Dr. Warner asked, as he put away his pen and prepared to leave.

“Well, over the last few weeks, we’ve been noticing some episodes of him…well, at times he will…we call it ‘spacing out.’”

Dr. Warner stopped what he was doing and immediately made eye contact. “So describe what you’re seeing.”

You went on to explain the episodes, the moments when he would leave conversations or play dates or television shows, when he’d stare off into nothingness for a few seconds before returning.

“I see,” Dr. Warner said. “Hey, Emerson, buddy, mind if I take a quick look?”

He proceeded to look into Emerson’s eyes, to feel his glands, test his pulse and blood pressure. He made a few notes and then said, “I’d like to see him back in the office next week. In the meantime, see if you can catch an incident on video.”

“Okay,” you said. “Is there anything else we should be doing in the meantime? Or is there anything he shouldn’t be doing?”

“Not at this point. Just keep an eye on him when he’s in the bathtub or swimming or anything like that. But I don’t see that there need to be any restrictions at this point.”

“Okay.” You didn’t know if you should be happy or concerned, if you should ask more questions or wait until next week.

“Unless you have any other questions, I’ll send the nurse in for Lyla’s immunizations.”

Great. Even more good news to end this delightful exam.

You sat in the room, waiting for the nurse, asking Emerson to stop touching every surface, wondering if you could possibly move Lyla into her own room, let alone have her cry it out. How could you listen to her cry like that when you could do something about it? Isn’t that your job as her mother, to comfort her? And what about Emerson? Take a video of him spacing out? You never know when it will happen or for how long. And you’re not sure you want video proof of that vacant stare.

Then the knock on the door came. The nurse walked in with a tray of needles and bandaids. She handed you sheets with information about the vaccinations, side effects and more.

Then she said, “We’re short-handed today, so I’m going to need your help. Can you hold Lyla down on the table, while I administer the shots?”

There you stood, your gut bursting over your jeans, your bun looking more greasy than messy, holding your child down, while the nurse poked her. You stood there a willing participant in bringing tears and pain to your child, not able to fully comfort her until after the shots and the bandaids and the clothes were back in place. Then you scooped her up and held her tightly for a moment behind the closed door of the exam room. You let the tears flow, but only for a moment. You had to soothe yourself. You had to pull it together, so you could leave that office. You had to do it for yourself. And for the kids. There was no time to cry now. That would come later, in the shower, during nap time when you could sob from the weight of it all.

Dear Jo: A {fictional} Diary of a Modern Mom

“Dear Jo: A Diary of a Modern Mom” is a serial fiction story written by Meagan Church. Stay tuned for the next diary entry of one mom’s attempt to chronicle what she has been told are the days she shouldn’t forget…spit-up, tantrums, milestones and all. Visit the Dear Jo page to catch up on the already-published entries. And, be sure to subscribe today, so you don’t miss a single installment:


Have you download my free eBook “Motherhood Doesn’t Come with Sick Days…and other lessons from parenting”? Also, be sure to join the Unexpectant Facebook community today.

Motherhood Doesn't Come with Sick Days

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