Thursday, February 10, 2011

Returning from the abyss

I have been absent too long. Elodie is now nearly 6 months old - a fact both shocking, scary and wonderful. It also means I have a little more than three months left before I have to be dragged kicking and screaming back to work.

Unsurprisingly, much has happened. At about 3 and a half months, my daughter laughed for the first time. She is now among the smiliest, chuckliest little people I have ever seen. At about the same time, we taught her to fall asleep being rocked, as opposed to feeding to sleep.

Then at four months, she forgot how to sleep and woke every couple of hours or less for nigh on a month. This was interspersed with refusing to go back down in her cot and insisting on being nuzzled up against me and my boobs in bed with the snack bar permanently open. It resulted in one memorable morning on Boxing Day when I had spent from midnight until 5am feeding her, putting her down, then picking her up again, putting her down, feeding her and repeat ad infinitum. At 5am I burst into tears and ended up bringing her into the very perilously squashy bed where we were staying at my parents house.

It did gradually get better, after about a month of rubbish sleeping. Also at 4 months, she learned how to nap in a stationary pram accompanied by white noise and now she has something of a daytime 'routine' - something I didn't particularly strive for but which she just got into all by herself, with minimal help. Now, if she is late for or misses a nap, she gets mega grouchy.

As we emerged, blinking and rubbing our eyes from the depths of the hellish four-month sleep regression, we had a lovely hangover where Elodie would no longer really be rocked to sleep or sleep in the evening. We currently get somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes at around 7ish, then she won't go back to sleep until I can convince her to feed properly again, usually sometime between 9pm (on a very good night) til midnight (that is fortunately rare). Tired of her messing around in bed with me and not feeding, I started putting her back in the cot and telling her she was only coming in with me if she was upset or hungry. Miraculously, that first time, she then fell to sleep on her own at about 10.30pm, and has done so a number of times since. Never before 10pm though.

At not quite 5 and a half months, we started giving her solid food - ooh, naughty. Now, she has a selection of random pureed vegetables at lunchtime, and baby rice with fruit at tea time. She LOVES butternut squash but appears not to have a massive sweet tooth as is not too fussed with fruit. Since starting on solids, she has self-settled for naps in her cot several times. Probably a coincidence.

For a long time (and still to some extent) I was treating Elodie like a puzzle to be worked out, but I've come to realise there are just too many variables. During the sleep regression, we experimented with more light or less, mummy cuddles or daddy cuddles, longer or shorter naps at different times of day, getting up earlier, white noise, but it's always impossible to tell what had the magic (or tragic) effect. The biggest variable, I have found, is the baby. What works one day may well not work at all two days later. I found the four-month sleep regression much harder than the newborn days, largely because she was so difficult to get back to sleep. I really don't mind nightfeeds (all that much) as long as baby can be plonked back in her cot without any fuss afterwards.

We've toyed with the idea of sleep-training and I spent one hour doing 'pick-up, put-down' once - before my lovely husband threatened to call the police if I continued. I took the side off the cot and pulled it up against the bed for a couple of weeks to make night feeds no harder than snuggling half into the cot and rolling away afterwards, but put it back to make sure it didn't get to be too much of a habit - and because it was giving me a bad back.

In about a week and a half Elodie will be six months and at that point we are planning to try moving her into her own room. We may also dip our toes into the murky water of sleep-training and whisper the evil words 'controlled crying'. But there has been spontaneous improvement so we may decide it's not necessary - by then she will have been eating solids for three weeks and hopefully won't be so hungry. But we shall see.

Elodie is an absolute joy, who giggles for no reason, grabs my face with a smile and screws up her nose in the most enchanting way. Sometimes, when I know I should be being a little more hardline and putting her back into her cot/leaving her, she looks up at me with giant eyes and my heart melts. Angel baby.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Twilight Zone

Elodie is 8 weeks old now and we have both been officially discharged from the various medical people. Things should theoretically be settling down but although Elodie does seem to be able to sleep longer at night, it still seems to take two to three hours of feeding/soothing/ putting her down/picking her up to settle her. Which means a typical evening will go like this - feed er around 7.30pm, bath and baby massage at 8pm, another feed after that between 8.30pm and 9pm. At this point, sometimes she will drop off for 45 minutes, then we have more feeding, interspersed with periods of putting her down then picking her up again. It's like a puzzle I'm trying to solve. I've been keeping a feeding and sleeping log to look for patterns. So far it hasn't helped.

Since my mum went back home a couple of weeks ago, I've been trying to get out as much as possible. I've joined a postnatal group and a bumps to babies group - but haven't got anyone else's number yet. But my quest to meet other mums continues.

Things change all the time. Elodie's first cold heralded a few sleepless nights. Her first smiles, however, brought the power to enchant - she will grin up at me mid feed and all is forgiven. She slept for 7 hours straight a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, that feat is yet to be repeated. She is now allowed to take her harness off for three hours a day - but cries when it is put back on, then forgets all about it, She gets stronger all the time, lifting her head up and pushing her arms and legs against anything that provides resistance.

She remains a gorgeous, beautiful little mite and sometimes I'm so overwhelmed with love for her it brings a tear to my eye. And when she has woken me for the umpteenth time and I'm exhausted and losing my patience, she looks at me with her big blue eyes and all is forgiven.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Yummy Mummy

Not the current meaning of the expression, implying as it does Nigella Lawson/Denise Van Outen/Jools Oliver sashaying around in Boden (whatever exactly Boden is) and preparing perfect cupcakes while looking stylish.

No, I think yummy mummy is a much better description of my baby's relationship with my breasts. As the weeks go by (6 so far), I become increasingly thankful that booby and baby seem to get on rather well together. I could not imagine the fadge of faffing around with making up bottles using 'cooled boiled water' and constant sterilising stuff. With breastfeeding, you never run out unexpectedly, nor can you forget to bring dinner with you, and it's always at the right temperature.

As well as all the advertised benefits (the pro BF lobby are really quite dogmatic), there are other rather nice things - as the source of dinner, Elodie follows me round the room and her eyes light up and her sobs quieten when I whip a boob out. And when she's feeding she looks up at me with impossibly deep blue eyes thinking 'mmm, yummy mummy' it's just magical.

Not withstanding the fact I accidentally melted my breast pump the other day (since replaced). Ooops...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hips and harnesses

Elodie, it seems, is not quite perfect in the physical sense. Clicky hips discovered on her newborn paediatric exam have now turned out to be developmental displasia of the hips - and she has to wear a harness for at least six weeks.

I'm not entirely sure how to feel about it - it is, by the sounds of it, an entirely fixable problem and the physios umm-ed and aah-ed for some time before deciding she should go into the harness so she is sort of borderline. And the hip which was identified as problematic at birth improved drastically after wearing double nappies for two weeks - unfortunately the other hip, which had been borderline, did not improve at all. Hence the harness.

It looks a bit like a parachute harness without the parachute and with the addition of straps going down her legs and enclosing her feet. It is not exactly convenient. While she is allowed it off briefly every day to have some time to kick her legs about, the shape and structure of the harness means she can no longer wear vests that do up under the nappy, and some of her babygrows are immediately too small meaning for the most part we have had to move up to 0-3month size. More annoyingly for me has been the fact that she can't breastfeed in the same positions we had mastered - she has to have her legs held open at all times so cradling her is a big no-no. After quite a bit of practice (well, she does feed about a million times a day) we have got two poses, one for sitting down and one for lying down, which seem to be mutually satisfactory.

In other news, my mother has been ensconced here on and off for two weeks and has been extremely helpful. While here mainly to help me with things that the c-section physically makes difficult, she has also been doing almost all the cooking and washing up, as well as making lots of cups of tea and generally being helpful but not at all overbearing. I have managed to breastfeed in public once (prior to the harness being put in) down the pub with my sister and her husband, and have also had lunch in Costa Coffee with my mother and managed to make it to a postnatal group, a baby clinic and the breastfeeding cafe. I have also expressed my first breastmilk - but therein lies another post...

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Two weeks is not very long

My husband's paternity leave ended on Monday and he went back to work. When I was planning to have a nice normal birth with no nasty stitches or operation, I had intended just to get on with the business of mummying on my own. But obviously, with a c-section things are rather more complicated, what with the not being able to bend over to pick things up or lift anything other than the baby.

So my lovely mother has come to stay. I am lucky in that we have a very good relationship and I like spending time with her. She is also not someone who is wont to tell me what to do, butt in, or generally interfere with me getting to grips with mummyhood. Instead, she has been very helpful at picking up things I have dropped, getting me cups of tea, and, of course, giving the baby the odd cuddle. We even managed to make it to Tesco the other day - with Elodie in tow. It took an hour and a half to leave the house as Elodie decided she wanted to feed, feed again, do a poo and then have another little feed first. Then she was fine and was in the car as good as gold, and happily in my sling while we walked around Tesco. Although when we got home, congratulating ourselves on our achievement, we realised that the small, separate pile of shopping which my mother had intended to buy had been left on the conveyor belt for the next customer. Ooops.

My husband doesn't seem to be suffering massive separation anxiety from having to leave his teeny offspring each day. And he is getting even better at sleeping through night feeds. Which have been getting a little more trying for me. I'm hoping that she is just going through a growth spurt, but the last couple of nights, she has been feeding on and off between about 10pm and 3am - sometimes just a tiny bit at a time then apparently falling asleep, but complaining when you try and put her down. This is really quite tiring. She then only gets up again at 6am to 7am, but really, that's not very much sleep for me. I think what makes it difficult is that I don't really know when she is going to stop - so each time having fed her, given her lots of cuddles, possibly changed her and then put her tenderly into the cot, I am hopeful that this is it and I can go to sleep. But invariably, it isn't. It doesn't help that I had a friend over yesterday and was unable to have a rest during the day, so am feeling really quite drained today. Elodie, however, seems very happy with life. She is also having a nice long sleep now - I am tempted to try and wake her to encourage wakefulness during daylight hours and sleepiness more during the night.

I went to a family centre with my friend T yesterday in the hope of joining a bumps to babies group. Unfortunately, there were no bumps or babies - apparently the group was quite big but they are hoping to restart it again after the summer because it all quietened down. I am now trying to search out other possible groups - I have got to find some other mums at some point or it will just be me and, err, mumsnet for advice. My husband thinks I have become addicted. I'm yet to post though, I'm currently just lurking. The family centre, however, was amazing - completely chaotic, unbelievably noisy and messy and just good fun with children crawling, running and playing all over the place. A favourite activity appeared to be mixing flour, water and some green stuff together with whisks and spatulas, which ended up with green gloop on the floor, on the children's clothes and hair, on the midwife we were chatting to and even a teeny bit on Elodie. I think she needs to get a bit bigger before she'll get the most out of it, but it will definitely be fun.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The first two weeks

Elodie has been with us for 15 days now. She's totally gorgeous and also unintentionally hilarious - who would have thought that a tiny baby could parp as loudly as an adult? I have been reflecting on some of the things that have surprised me over the last two weeks
*it is (currently) less tiring having a well-behaved newborn baby than being heavily pregnant
*if you don't feed soon enough from one boob, it will go hard, lumpy and may start leaking milk
*dads can sleep through babies crying. Mums can't.
*it is really frustrating not being able to bend down to pick things up off the floor when you drop them
*after a caesarean you will not be able to bend over sufficiently to shave your legs. Mine currently look like a forest.
*every time a midwife has been to my house, she has seen (and handled) my naked breasts
*every time a midwife or health professional gives you advice about anything, it conflicts with what someone else has told you
*to begin with, when you are breastfeeding, you will literally not be able to do anything else. It takes both hands, legs, and a mountain of pillows
*when you take iron tablets, your poo goes black
*despite nine months of abstinence, you really don't feel like getting ratted at all after having a baby. Disappointing, that one.
*post-caesarean, sitting up hurts. Moving too suddenly hurts. Bending over to pick stuff up hurts.
*when you take a teeny baby out with you, everyone looks at it and smiles

It's supposed to take about six weeks to recover from a caesarean - by that token I need another four weeks before I'm fighting fit. The question of sex raised it's thorny head last night. When my husband looked at me very seriously and said 'but I'm not a gentle lover' I pissed myself laughing. Hope it didn't hurt his feelings...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Up until the day Elodie was born, I had never spent the night in a hospital. I now have four nights under my belt. My first night I was still, to be honest, quite out of it. I'm not sure what painkillers I was on actually during the surgery, but I do know that I had two top-ups of diamorphine through my epidural during the first 24 hours. My parents arrived - with a bag full of cheese and champagne - for the first visiting session and my father, bless him, put on a suit specially. The last time he wore a suit was at a wedding.

During the first night, as the drugs wore off, things got a bit painful. Also, there were several other women in the ward, some of whom were clearly not very well. The first 'breastfeeding' attempt largely consisted of one of the midwives manipulating my breast, Elodie failing to latch on, and then her hand-expressing a syringe of milk and giving it to her. Unexpected things were quite impossible and really rather painful, and I was unable to do the first nappy change - but when they came round at 3am, after checking I knew how to change a nappy, that responsibility passed back to me.

The morning brought ward rounds from the surgeons who had operated on me, and the anaesthetist who decided to give me more heroin. Soon after (or before, my mind is a bit foggy) I was encouraged to walk, with assistance, to take a shower. This was the most painful thing I had to do to date, and posed all sorts of unanticipated difficulties - like how to remove my bra when it was stuck down under the tape holding my epidural in place, or how to take off the anti thrombosis stockings when it was agony to bend in half. Then half way into the washing, I realised I was about to faint and had to pull the cord, and was found by one of the maternity care assistants, stark naked clutching my nightie sitting on a chair and, err, bleeding. She wheeled me back to my bed.

I was moved upstairs to the general wards later that day, where things were a bit quieter, and we started getting the hang of breastfeeding. More visitors came... Pain subsided a bit, and I came to the conclusion the only palatable hospital food was the multi-cultural asian halal meal, which was some kind of curry each time. My second night in the hospital was fine and dandy until I found myself in quite excruciating pain at 5am and had to get some morphine. Lovely.

Because of that, even though I was technically discharged from the hospital, I decided to stay another night to make sure if the pain returned I would be able to deal with it, and also to really nail the breastfeeding. Unfortunately, at this point my milk came in, and I went for nearly 8 hours without Elodie getting a decent feed, which was rather upsetting for both of us. Just as they were about to discharge us properly, I asked for help getting her latched on and the relief of her emptying my poor engorged boob was palpable.

Of course, nothing is as simple as that. An unstable hip joint had been spotted by the paediatrician when she was checking Elodie over, and she was supposed to have been booked in for an ultrasound scan and we were just waiting to hear when that would happen. Literally as we were about to leave - Elodie was in the car seat and everything, the midwives decided we couldn't leave until the appointment had taken place - and that meant another night in hospital. I was so ready to leave, I was absolutely gutted. I also had to wait for about an hour in the waiting area for a new bed, as they had given mine away. On the plus side, they felt so bad about the whole thing, I got a private room for the night, and help latching Elodie on to my other engorged breast. There were lots of apologies the following day when they discharged me, as it turned out that I could in fact have been discharged as the ultrasound appointment was at an entirely different hospital. Anyway, after all this, we were finally able to take our baby home.

Which felt pretty good.