I shared my bed with a boy and caught something nasty

Wow! I never thought that this would happen to me. I never was the Club 18-30 Shagaluf holiday type. Yet, here I am, 2 months away from my 40th birthday and I’ve caught something.

Of course, I’m not talking about an STI, I’m talking about a(nother) common cold. Everybody knows that children are basically little incubators of mucus-borne diseases (Babies and colds). Babies, especially, put everything in their mouths, and so catching the lurgy is inevitable. We stopped sterilizing BB’s bottles for his evening feed a couple of weeks after BB’s quest for empiricism-by-mouth began. Quite frankly, we’d seen some of the noses on the children who were also playing with the toys at the various baby groups we thought ‘what the heck’, and let him begin to build an immune system.

It’s all good and healthy. And gross. I have, this morning, had to wipe an extremely snotty sneeze effluent off an infant in a jumperoo. This is as disgusting and as difficult as it sounds.

I suppose that, since BB is still partially breastfed, he’s still getting some immunity from me. Hopefully this is making the cold less unpleasant for him. He doesn’t seem too bothered during the day, but he’s a bit miserable at night. Last night, after trying to settle him in his cot between 22:30-02:00 with varying degrees of un-success, I finally brought him in with me. There, he finally settled. Cuddles make all the difference when you’re feeling poorly.

I did a little bit of (5 mins on Google) research, looking for some figures on the frequency of transfer of colds between children and their parents. I fully expected to find some depressing data telling me that I could expect to catch everything doing the rounds for the next decade (+++!). Instead, I found this: New Scientist. Apparently we’re less likely to get sick! I’m not convinced. I’m more inclined to think that we’re less likely to take time to recover from sickness, rather than not get colds and flu in the first place. I’ve only just recovered from a horrible cough and cold a fortnight ago and already my nose is tingling again. Anyway, they’re right about one thing; you can’t ‘get ill’ in the same way that you used to do. There’s a lot of ‘just getting on with it’ spirit in our house these days!

In the mean time, I’m dosing up and trying not to give myself brain freeze with Vick’s First Defense… maybe it will work. The empiricist in me wants to ask how I’ll know whether it’s more likely to be over the counter pharmaceuticals, the ‘higher level of well-being’ or sheer bloody-mindedness and a ‘can’t stop’ attitude that keeps this cold at bay (if I even can keep it at bay!). One thing’s for sure, though; I don’t want to find out by putting other people’s unwashed toys in my mouth. I’ll leave that to BB…

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Sleep is for the weak

The other day, I read this amusing blog post about getting your baby to sleep: How to get your baby to sleep. My personal favourite is the line “buy a nightlight, but never turn it on.” It just about sums up the wild range of, often conflicting, expert advice that’s available ‘out there’, from book to book, blog to blog, health visitor to health visitor and GP to GP. Do this, never do that. Do it as long as it works for your family.

BB was a really good sleeper last November, for 9 days. It was really exciting, but also made me slightly anxious at the same time… this couldn’t last, surely? Well… no. It didn’t. And going back to the broken nights after those mythical 9 days was tougher than if he’d just consistently woken up once a night for the whole darn time. Getting up to give BB a feed was a drag, but it was manageable. Now, if I could write a letter to my November self, it would say something like “make sleep hay while the sun doesn’t shine, you don’t know what’s coming next.”

Welcome to the 8 month sleep regression. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. A few days before Christmas BB went back to newborn sleep patterns, waking up every 2 hours and refusing to settle. We spent the first 3 nights taking it in turns to rock, feed, pace and generally try to offer futile comfort to an angry baby. On the 4th night, Christmas Eve, knowing that we had 48 hour of family hotboxing ahead, I caved and brought BB into bed with me. Finally, we got some desperately needed sleep. I hadn’t wanted to co-sleep, it really felt like a step backwards, but it was actually really nice, sweet and cuddly, convenient and above all, it worked. So, from then until now, our policy has been this: He goes to sleep in his own room in his cot. If he wakes, I try to settle him. If he doesn’t settle, or he does, but I have to return within half an hour and he still won’t settle, then my husband is banished to the spare room and co-sleeping commences.

As a system, I felt pleased that we were mostly finally getting some sleep, but co-sleeping isn’t what I want long term, and, given that he’s been doing so well in his cot previously, it felt like one of those dreaded ‘bad habits’ you hear so much about. I had never done it when he was tiny, and it felt like bit of a fail to start doing it now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it, as long as it’s done safely, but I liked the routine as it was before just fine.

Just after Christmas I won a competition on upfrontmama to have a sleep consultation with Kerry Cares. How exciting! I imagined that all of our sleep woes would be magically resolved. Kerry and I arranged our telephone appointment and I emailed over the sorry story of woe of our bedtime and nighttime traumas. When I spoke to Kerry, she was lovely. It was really nice for me to be able to discuss these issues with an impartial and non-judgmental person. She’s got lots of experience of babies and toddlers and has seen it all. We discussed bedtime routines, naps, settling techniques and I left the call with a plan. Of course I understood that this would require patience and consistency, so I didn’t expect instant improvement overnight, but I did feel like I had somewhere to start. This is better than feeling like you’re just flailing about, trying to make the best of it.

The first night, I manage to settle BB after his first awakening, but not after the second. I’m back at work part time now and I had to get up in the morning. As the time to alarm grew shorter I knew I had to get some sleep, so we de-camped to my room, using the Robopax Baby Rocker and the Moses basket by my bed as a half way house to co-sleeping. A partial success.

Then the dreaded lurgy struck. It turns out its really difficult to sing a lullaby softly when you’re hacking up half a lung. I felt dreadful, both physically and for the number of times I so nearly got BB to sleep and then woke him up with my own coughing. My husband tried to help, but BB protested. Loudly. Only Mummy would do. By night two, we were back to co-sleeping again, just to survive.

It was a real shame and bad timing that I was so poorly while I had the support from Kerry (although, of course, she is available to help on email, and I can always buy another consultation), as it meant that I couldn’t really put her plan into action and see real results within that week. However, I do have what I think is a really solid plan and sound guidance to put in to action once we’re all feeling better. A big THANK YOU to Kerry for that!

And, amazingly, last night BB slept through the WHOLE NIGHT in his OWN COT. Is it something we did differently? Maybe, maybe not. But its a little win, and I’ll take it.

 

Crafty Christmas

I must share this; I am very pleased with myself.

After not bothering to have any Christmas decorations for the past 4 years, I have decided to make an effort this year. The lounge is already full of baby paraphernalia, there really isn’t room for a tree (tree+cats+many trip hazards = let’s leave it).

But then I saw it! The flat 2D display Christmas tree in the Sue Ryder charity shop. Not for sale, sadly, but they gave me an idea.

So, on Monday afternoon I found some old wire coathangers and bought some gaffer tape (why is gaffer tape like the Force? Because it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together – sorry) and about 10 metres of tinsel.

Eh voila!

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Pencil

I looked at BB’s face today, and I find him so beautiful that I am amazed that he exists.

I have been reflecting on how I might have felt if I hadn’t struggled for so long to have him; might I have taken everything more for granted? Worried about him more? Less? We’re weaning at the moment, and I find that I haven’t read as many books as I might have. I know the basics, of course, but I can’t shake the attitude that, at the end of the day, it’s just mushed food. How hard can it be? As long as he’s healthy and I’m not overloading him with salt and sugar, I feel that I do not need to read a book for this. Its almost as if my tolerance for BS faded away at some point and now I just want to get on with things. Give me the facts and then move on.

Sleep training is another thing that I feel a bit ‘no nonsense’ about I admit that I did buy a couple of books but, do you know what? We just do what we do. When we first tried bedtime at about 3 months it was HORRIBLE and we went from having a baby who slept sometimes for 4-5 hours at night (AMAZING at the time), to going back to 2 hourly feeds. And yet, when he was 5 months, he began to get really cranky in the evenings and told us that he needed a bedtime, so that’s what we did. And its much better all round as a result.

Maybe its because I’m a bit older; my next birthday will have a ‘4’ in it. Its not 24. Or 34. Maybe its because my priorities have been reevaluated and I now only want to do important things. Maybe its because, having suffered Recurrent Pregnancy Loss before having BB, I’m just a bit tougher on the inside. Or at least I was. Motherhood has taken the edge off. If I were a pencil, I think I was a 4H by the time RLP had finished with me. A really pointy sharp one, at that. Now I think I’m a 2B. Not the softest, but more smudgable. Still granite in the middle, though.

I looked at BB’s face today, and I find him so beautiful that I am amazed that he exists. And I remember that he only exists because those who went before him do not. And I love him all the more.

 

Expectant silence, raised eyebrow: re-learning couples communication

My husband and I have always been on a particular wavelength and have our own in-jokes. Much of our communication is non-verbal (behave!) and we’ve usually managed to negotiate life together reasonably harmoniously by picking up on the subtleties of each other’s signs and signals.

Then we had a baby. It occurred to me at the weekend that a new, more straight forward way of communicating is needed in order to avoid low level conflict because a) you’re looking at the baby and not at each other, and, b) you’re sleep deprived and impatient. When you’ve forgotten to hand over the keys and everyone is standing outside outside of the car in the rain waiting for it to be unlocked, a raised eyebrow and an agitated clearing of the throat just ain’t going to work. Saying ‘please can you check if the keys are in your pocket’ is much more effective.

I find myself guilty of simultaneously expecting to be assisted with everything and being able to do it all myself. This is not helpful because, if even I don’t know whether, what and how I want to be assisted, how the hell is he supposed to know? Its a minefield, and it’s worth remembering to be kind and charitable in your expectations of each other as you negotiate your changed roles as parents. I try, with varying degrees of success.

Likewise, if I do want to be helped out, that normally means that I have tried and have been unable to manage a task myself. It does not mean that I would like instruction in how to complete the task (even if I would benefit from it in future). I just want it done.

One example of this is from when BB was about 4 weeks old and we had to go to the GP for something or other and I wanted my husband to put the buggy together for me. He wanted to see that I could manage it myself (in case I needed to do it unaided next time). He put it up and then took it apart again for me to assemble myself, to check that I could also do it safely. I promptly burst in to tears in the surgery car park. Lesson learned? Sometimes you just need a task to be done. Learn how to do it on another day when you have more mental energy. Advice for me? Ask clearly for what you want done. Advice for him? Just do it. Offer help to learn how to do it on a less fraught occasion (whenever that may be). Learn to recognise the difference between the two types of asking.

I read it about how to deal with babies having new experiences all the time – specifically about weaning at the moment, but it applies in many scenarios: wait until you’re both relaxed, rested and have a bit of time. Apply this guidance to yourself, and each other whenever possible to help avoid fraying already frayed nerves further.

The key is patience and good, clear communication. Subtle facial expressions, meaningful or pointed looks, and general huffing and puffing get you absolutely no-where. Sarcasm may well lead to tears and tantrums. As I am sure I will no doubt presently be saying to BB as his vocabulary develops, you’ve got to use your words; we’re none of us mind readers.

Of course, the powers of verbal expression are not always readily available to the sleep deprived either (‘Can you pass me the… the… the… thing*?’ *towel/keys/spoon/clean nappy/shoes – whatever). I’m afraid I’m still trying to figure out an answer to that problem.

Disclaimer: Just in case I have inadvertently given the impression that I am in any way qualified to write with authority on these matters, I’d just like to confirm that I’m not; these really are only my rambling observations. 🙂

Bedtime, schmed-time

I have been reading articles on baby websites all morning, and I am no further forward. The advice sounds great; I, personally, would love 3-4 naps in a day and 10-12 hours of sleep at night! But there’s a serious disconnect between the wisdom of the baby gurus on ‘tinterweb and the reality of BB’s sleep patterns. Never mind a rod for our backs, I need them to prop open my eyelids today.

Here’s what’s going on. The goals are: a) make sure that his tummy is sufficiently full to last the night without being hungry; b) establish a bedtime routine other than the current one which is basically me sitting in the dark for 2 hours + every evening/running up and down the stairs/pouring wasted formula down the sink after BB has refused to take a bottle. And I’m still needing to get up a couple of times in the night to do a feed.

The problem started a couple of weeks ago; having tried and failed to ‘do’ bedtime at 3 months (BB went from lovely 5 hour night sleeps to 2 hourly feeds – it was horrendous), we’ve been trying to let him sleep downstairs (I know, I know, rod #1) and nurse until our bedtime, then have a final feed last thing. This was working pretty well and BB was sleeping through the rest of the night a few times a week and occasionally needing a top up at about 04:30. I considered this a success.

But then, about 10 days ago being downstairs in the evening became a real problem. He became over tired and over stimulated and he started letting us know he was angry about it. Worse, he now absolutely will not take a bottle any more, so my husband is pretty much powerless to soothe him. I went out for the evening the other weekend and by all accounts they both had a thoroughly horrible time.

So, now we’re ‘doing’ bedtime again. Except I can’t seem to get it ‘right’ like the advice on the baby websites and in the books say. It’s dark, it’s calm, there’s a warm bath, there’s a familiar routine… then there’s crying within 10 minutes every time I sneak away. He likes to nurse to sleep (yes, I know, rod #2). It does work, but he doesn’t stay asleep until after about 3 or 4 goes.

Given the BB was 6 weeks premature, could it be that he isn’t yet ready to self settle? Maybe he’s overtired from his day and needs more naps? Maybe his naps are too short? Maybe he’s still hungry? Maybe I should leave it longer before going back to him when he cries? Whatever the cause of the problem, I am sure that there’s a whole world of advice out there which I will read and then we’ll do it our own way, anyway.

What I am sure of is that, if I tried every ‘trick’ I read on line, we’d never have a routine at all, since they all say something different.

Anyhow, I remind myself that this week’s problems are not next week’s problems. Wonder what I’ll be googling next week?!

Expectation vs. reality

This is a post about sleep deprivation: life with a newborn feels like having jet lag every single day, and still having to get up and fly the plane. This is a post about how I coped with the early days. Its about expectation vs. reality.

This is also a post about how, sometimes, the things we want turn out to be quite hard (perhaps that’s what makes them worthwhile?). There is a false coloration that perpetuates a very unhelpful belief that the things we want are easy and we ought to automatically be 100% joyful 100% of the time when we get them. This is not only not true, but it is, I believe, also quite a damaging view. It makes vulnerable people feel feel badly about themselves, just at a time when support is essential. It can be the thin end of the wedge of Post Natal Depression. (NOTE: If you think that you are suffering more than the baby blues, get help. Keep talking to your partner/GP/Health Visitor. Help is available and you can get better).

After years of trying, this year we finally got our much wished for baby boy. However, more than one person has given me the distinct impression that, because I wanted this for so long, and tried so hard to get it, that I ought not to complain when I was finding it tough. Here’s the back ground.

We waited until we were both well established in our careers. We waited until we were married, and we were home owners. We bought a pair of kittens to see whether we could look after another living thing successfully. We waited until the time was right. And then we spent almost 4 years having miscarriage after miscarriage.

For a long time if felt that I was ‘done’ with the carefree, lets go on a holiday, a day trip, to the shops on a whim, without all the baggage and paraphernalia that children require. Boozy Sunday lunch in the pub? Writes off your evening. It felt like a waste of time; I felt I had more to offer.

When you want something, you envision your life with that thing included in it. When you find you can’t have it you either keep trying to achieve it or move on. When that thing is a family of your own, setting that dream aside is painful. You have to come to terms with it and  grieve for the future you wanted, which you think you might not have. Its very easy to romanticise the thing you wanted. Its very easy to imagine that parenthood will be sitting around (possibly in coffee shops – yes it does happen, often), gazing lovingly into your precious baby’s eyes.

And that vision does come true, at least for some moments in amongst the endless nappies. The rest is sleep deprivation, poo, cottage cheese nose vomits and has he slept enough/too much, is he too warm/too cold worries. And a lot of that is great; part and parcel of life with a new baby. This is especially true once you get to about 12 weeks and you begin to get a reaction back from your baby; one smile can heal a great deal.

But. And this is important: Sleep deprivation is not funny. It makes every thing else really difficult to cope with. You cry when you can’t put the pushchair together, or you spill some expressed milk, or you get sick on you for the 6th time in a night (reflux is a gift that just keeps on giving). Sleep deprivation puts everything out of perspective. You are told that this phase doesn’t last forever, but at the time you can’t see it. The worst part is, you feel like there must be something very, very wrong with you because everyone told you how amazing it would be, and, at the time (I’d say the first 10 or so weeks), you’re basically under siege, enduring a marathon of bodily fluids and functioning on caffeine and sugar. You can’t do anything, because you can’t put the baby down. Take it from me, the early days are HARD. And I’ve got what I think is quite an easy baby. And all through this, you are so tired that you can’t think straight to make sense of it anyway. Its tough on new mums, and its tough on new dads, too. I don’t think that people are lying when they say that new babies are wonderful, but I do think that, once you’re out of that initial phase, you forget. Not forget that it happened, but rather how you felt when you were still in the thick of it.

This is how I managed. I was so afraid of falling asleep with my baby in the bed when he was tiny, that I started watching boxsets (HOW did people cope before the internet?!). The feeling of feeding every 2 hours, when the feeds themselves last an hour and 45 minutes, and then BB not going back to sleep in his moses basket was akin to the feeling of driving a car late at night on a deserted motorway whilst listening to chill out music. I felt physically sick with trying to stay awake. Once or twice I did nod off, waking 20 minutes later to find BB still feeding propped on a pillow. At one point, for about 3 weeks, I was getting about half an hour of sleep every 2 hours. Nighttime was something that happened to other people. I came to dread going to bed, knowing that I faced hours of feeding, crying and sick. Night after night after night. It’s isolating, and the isolation is worse because you’re so tired. The boxsets helped me to stay awake. I watched all of Downton Abbey and 7 seasons of Mad Men in about 6 weeks. I think it made me a bit peculiar.

Do I therefore regret having a baby? Of course not. But it was a tough couple of months, and that is true, regardless of how longed for BB was and how precious he is. I don’t think that I lost my right to find it hard, just because I wanted it so much.

A New Chapter

I have decided that the time is right to start a new blog. This marks a new chapter in my life, going from a childless woman, repeatedly miscarrying babies, to a new mummy (possibly sometimes a yummy one? Regularly, I suspect a slightly rough around the edges scummy one…).

I started my original blog in order to try to honestly express the pain and frustrations of women suffering miscarriage, especially recurrent, unexplained pregnancy loss. I hope that my blog at justonemoretimeagain.wordpress.com will still help those who are still looking for information about treatments, clinics, and just to feel that they are not so alone.

However, I am acutely aware that the circumstances in which I now find myself are not only wildly different to those of the childless woman, wondering whether she will ever be able to start the family she longs for; the trials and tribulations of a new mummy are downright offensive to those women who are still grieving over the loss of a baby and the dream of ever having a family. Its simply not appropriate to write any more about my new life in my old blog.

I did write about my successful pregnancy on my old blog, which I hope offered a ray of hope to those still trying, and I can hold myself up as one of the (many) success stories of pregnancy after miscarriage, and I hope that this is an inspiration to women still struggling to conceive and stay pregnant. I also hoped to articulate just how scary pregnancy after loss can be, especially in the dreaded, scan packed first trimester.

But now I want to write about life with a newborn; the way I’ve coped with sleep deprivation, the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding etc. I can hear my old self saying, bitterly, ‘Don’t you dare complain about these things; you’ve got what you wanted, haven’t you? Your baby is alive and mine is DEAD. What I wouldn’t give to be sleep deprived with a new baby to snuggle with…’ etc. And this is the problem, because I don’t want to cause that kind of upset to people who have found my original blog at a time when they are in the depths of despair, grief and vulnerability. They want solidarity, not smugness.

I shouldn’t think that my new blog will be particularly popular; as we know, women have babies all the time. But I have experienced a steep learning curve and I think its about time there was a bit of honestly to cut through the ‘you’ll love every minute of it’ crap. The truth is, you’ll love almost every minute of it, and you’ll have a little cry at the bits in between. And it doesn’t matter how much you wanted it, you will think ‘Go the f*** to sleep’ more than once. And that’s OK.