Monday, 27 February 2012

7 Weeks Old

MUMMY

They say that children get their personalities from their parents. It turns out that my child is very demanding, enormously impatient, exceedingly stubborn and more than a little greedy so it just goes to show that there is an exception to every rule.

I write this week after 2 - 3 good days with my boy so for the first time really since he was born, I really feel like I am starting to turn a corner and, at the very least, I can write this with more of a positive frame of mind than previous posts.

The past couple of weeks, apart from the last few days, in truth, have been fairly hellish. I think the all time low peeked at around the 6 week mark when the relentless sleep deprivation really got on top of me and I just couldn't see a way forward. I was having real trouble getting the dude off to sleep at any time of day really, particularly at night-time, and we were having colicky wailing evenings that were really getting me down too. I thought I had known sleep deprivation before Dalton arrived having always been a fairly rubbish sleeper and despite people telling me how extreme the sleep deprivation was with a new baby, really, nothing prepared me for quite how tough it has been. The difference with baby sleep deprivation is that you just can't see a light at the end of the tunnel as unless you can make baby sleep, you never will! And sleep deprivation is a really horrific thing. I honestly believe, having been through a couple of awful weeks of it, that in the end, it sends you really quite dolally and ends up turning in to post-natal depression. I saw a friend of mine this past week that was telling me what a hard time she went through with her children. She was telling me how they woke on the hour every hour for about the first year to two years of their lives. She had little support and, in the end, after 3 - 4 years of constant sleep deprivation, believes she went a little mad. It ended her marriage ultimately. And I can see why.

I wanted to talk a little about how sleep deprivation can affect the brain. I hesitate to write what I am about to write, mostly because my mother can easily find things to worry about without me giving her any extra bait but, as always, I want to be 100% honest in this blog and I think if more people opened up and talked about how seriously challenging parenthood can be and how it affects you, people like me who have struggled a lot with it at times will realise they are not alone and be much more willing to seek help when help is needed. So, anyway, my friend was telling me about how she lived in a fairly trance-like hallucinative state for a couple of years due to the extreme sleep deprivation and that by the end of it, she was having horrible nightmares that seemed real about doing fairly horrific things to her children and then panicking about whether she actually had or not. Or whether she actually ever could. I empathised. Although I have been absolutely nowhere near that dark place with my particularly nasty couple of weeks, there was a moment about a week and a half ago at my absolute lowest when I hadn't slept at all for a couple of days and had had several days / nights on the trot prior to that with 1 - 2 hours sleep and I was utterly, utterly exhausted. I had finally got Dalton off to sleep at about 2am after standing and rocking him to and fro in the pram for about 3 hours straight, sobbing away throughout of course, and I crept up to bed ready to collapse both mentally and physically. About ten minutes after getting in to bed and just as I closed my eyes, he started wailing again. I physically couldn't get up and, honestly, I just couldn't face trying to settle him any more so I put my earplugs in, buried my head under the pillow and closed my eyes. Somehow, I nodded off and when I woke about an hour later, Dalton was no longer crying. I then panicked that something bad had happened. It was the first night I had left him downstairs in the pram rather than in our room or his nursery which is directly next door. What if the cat had got in and smothered him and he was no longer breathing. And then, and this is the point I am getting to with how f*cked up sleep deprivation can make you, a little voice in the back of my head said that at least if he had stopped breathing I would be able to just get a few hours more sleep. Of course I got up anyway and checked on him and he was fine and of course I felt disgusted with myself for that thought creeping in to my head at all and of course I would never do anything to harm my little boy but lack of sleep is a very dangerous thing and it's so important to recognise that you need help before it turns in to something serious.

So, I did recognise I needed help thankfully and as well as my mum and Ron each doing a night shift for me each week, I also decided we needed to get a night nanny one night a week - just for 2 - 3 weeks while the boy settles a little more as both Ron and I desperately needed a night off and whilst it is a luxury that we really can't afford to do more than these three sessions, we needed it and I am so glad I've been able to recognise that I needed this help. Interestingly, when I get sleep, even if it is only a few hours, I can cope with anything the boy throws at me and can look at him more as a logic puzzle, you know, OK, that didn't work, let's try this, OK, that didn't work either, let's try such and such. When I haven't had any sleep, all I can do is sob and beg him to tell me what's wrong with him!

Anyway, I feel comfortable talking about those particularly nasty days as, like I say, I really do feel like I have turned a corner these past few days. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. I am feeling more refreshed with the extra help I am getting with the night shifts
  2. Dalton's tummy is starting to improve greatly now with the help of infant Gaviscon (it took several days to kick in and whilst he still has lots of wind and struggles to poop a little, he is remarkably better)
  3. I've bought a few things for him which each do their own little part at making him more comfortable at night-time
  4. He has just started to give something back! We had our first real, proper smile on Friday and it melted my heart and made me sob again - but this time for a happy reason
So, speaking of that big, proper smile my angel gave me. Here it is. My, my, what an absolutely gorgeous chappie, even if I do say so myself. I've been told he looks a lot like Mummy!

Big Smiles for Mummy

It was a long time coming, but that first big gummy smile made everything seem worthwhile and he is getting more and more chatty every day with me now. For some reason, nearly everything he says sounds like "agua". Do I have a thristy, Spanish child?

We've had some other successes too. The past couple of nights, he's actually started to become a lot easier to settle at night. Don't get me wrong, it still takes me up to an hour but this is a huge improvement on previous times and I'll be honest, the introduction of a dummy has dramatically helped with this. We'll probably regret this later but I'm happy to deal with later later! And last night, for the first time since he was born, he went to sleep at about 8pm meaning that Ron and I could actually eat together. I then woke him about 11pm for a dream feed and he slept right through to 4am so that was great and should things continue in that manner, the sleep situation will be manageable for me (and manageable is all I am looking for here - long gone are the days that I hope for a proper night's sleep). Also, as well as him starting to sleep a little better (and I am aware that there will probably be a few days when we will go backwards again), we have him sleeping in his cot and he seems pretty happy there so all in all, for 7 weeks, I think we are doing pretty well and as I mooch round this corner I spoke of, I am actually feeling really proud of myself for how far I / we have come so far.

The other thing that started to happen, literally 2 - 3 days ago, was that breastfeeding stopped hurting! It has been such a 'journey' as those reality TV stars would say and I've had lots of setbacks (including a major setback about two weeks ago with the introduction of nipple shields which ended up causing a rather severe case of blocked milk ducts) but we're finally through the pain barrier. The problem is, I have only been able to breastfeed about 2 - 3 times a day due to the problems I was having so the milk supply is low and, frankly, with the amount my boy eats, I don't think I would ever be able to keep up with his demands but I'm in a fairly happy place now where I give him about three token boob juice feeds a day to give him some Wood goodness and he has formula the rest of the time. Sure, I could struggle through and gradually introduce more and more feeds to get my supply back up but you know what, I'm done with struggling on with it any further and I appreciate how important it is for my boy that Mummy is well and happy and I've found something that works for us both so I'm sticking to it!

So, hungry, yes, my boy eats! The thing that makes him a little stressful to be around is that he goes from zero to hero when wants to eat. I literally get no warning at all. It's quiet and relaxed / asleep to "ARRGGGHHHHHHHHHH! I NEED FOOD MUMMY IMMEDIATELY!". With breastfeeding, this isn't too bad as there isn't a huge delay in getting the boob in his chops but when preparing a bottle, this can be a little stressful so I hum loudly to myself now and try to zone out for the few minutes it takes to get his bottle ready. I have come to realise that no harm is coming to him when he has to wait for two minutes to eat and that if he chooses to spend those two minutes shouting very loudly to momma, then so be it! Still, as I have said before, I am so much happier that I have a boy that eats too much than not enough. He weighed in at a stunning 14½ pounds last week at just 6 weeks old, which is ridiculous and the weight of about a 4 - 5 month old. He remains in the 98th percentile for both weight and height (but about the 50th percentile for head diameter which I thought was odd - does this mean he has a small head?!). So, well done little boy. You are growing well. In fact, I can't believe how grown up he looks already. Here he is in his little outfit and first shoes!

Cool Dude
As I was saying, I've bought a few things for him that seem to generally be making him happier. I forgot to mention that I have also spent an absolute fortune (honestly, you will pay anything to try to get a good night's sleep / keep your child healthy and happy) on things to try to make him happier that have been a total waste of money. The thing is with these babies is that there's no one size fits all solution and it takes quite some time to get to know what works for your bubs. I am finally getting there with what works for little man and I thought I would share some of the things that I've bought that have been helpful and some of the things I have bought that have been a total waste of money:

Useful Purchases

  • Swaddle sleep suits - both The Woombie and the Love To Swaddle Up sleep suits have been a great success at keeping bubs asleep once asleep and not waking up from the moro (startle) reflex
  • A flat head support pillow for the pram and for the cot - makes Dalton comfortable and stops him moving about too much when napping / sleeping
  • iPhone white noise / lullaby apps - these really have helped to send him off to sleep and keep him that way
  • A dummy! - probably the single biggest influence on his improved sleep. Babies just like to suck it turns out and often when I thought he was hungry, he wasn't, he just wanted to suck on something
  • Infant Gaviscon - this really has made a difference to little dude's tummy
  • Dr Brown's anti-colic bottles - again, these really seem to have made a difference to Dalton's windiness when eating
  • A cheap bounce seat - perfect for leaving him in while I grab a cup of coffee / prepare his bottle
  • A breastfeeding chair - this has made a massive difference to being able to rock little man to sleep at night in comfort
  • Buggy clips for carrying bags
Non-Useful Purchases
  • A sleep-positioning wedge - the wedge idea is to help with reflux but for whatever reason, we just couldn't get little man comfy in the one we bought
  • A slumber bear - this has a recording from inside the womb and it certainly does no harm but is no better than the white noise apps you can get for free or very cheaply on the iPhone
  • A bottle-warmer - nice idea but 5 minutes warming time I'm afraid just wasn't going to work for my little man. Yup, I know you aren't supposed to microwave baby milk but an awful lot of people do and I'm sensible enough to make sure it is well shaken and there are no hot spots and 30 seconds waiting time just works for him a little better
  • An all singing and dancing swing chair - not a complete waste but the very simple bounce seat has been far more successful and is much, much cheaper and more mobile
That's all I can think of for now but any other useful purchases I make over the next few weeks, I will obviously share.

Here's a picture of our angel in his Love To Swaddle Up sleep-suit by the way. My Angel of The South!

Zzzzzzz
So, I'll finish off this post by saying that I can definitely see the light. My boy is becoming more and more fun to be around every day and there are so many fab things we can do when he can support his head - I can't wait to get him in the door bouncer, for example - so I really am looking forward now and expecting a few bumps along the way, but looking forward.

Finally, I just want to thank all of you who have been so incredibly supportive to me over the past few weeks. I've been overwhelmed by the support in fact and really realised how special some of my friends are. Some of you have made long trips over to see me, several times in fact, and some of you have offered support by message and some of you have simply shared your story and all of these things have helped me to get through these first few weeks. I really couldn't have done it without any of you so, you guys, you know who you are, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much. Goodness, that made me cry a little writing that - again, in a good way though. Life is precious and you guys are very precious to me.

I hope to write again soon and I hope I will continue to be writing from a happier place as my little soldier gets bigger and bigger!


DALTON

I must say, my wind issues were the pits but whatever Mummy and Daddy have been giving me seems to be doing the trick as I am managing to get my poops out much easier now. I like to poop about 8 times a day so you can imagine how frustrating it is when they don't come out easily!

This week, I learnt to smile! What a great feeling. Mummy looked so happy when I smiled so I am going to smile lots more for her. I've been telling her lots of things actually but I'm not sure she understands me.

I've met quite a few people now at some of the classes Mummy goes to. She seems to have already married me off to her friend's little girl Amelia! I mean, Amelia is alright but frankly, she's a bit of a flirt. One minute she has eyes for me, the next I catch her fluttering her eyelashes at some other guy. I'll be no one's sloppy seconds so, I don't know, watch this space is all I'm saying but she should take nothing for granted. I'm a handsome chap you know!

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty happy at the moment and life is starting to become more interesting. I can still only see in black and white mostly but some colours are starting to come through so the world is starting to look, well, a little more colourful. I don't know my hands are my own yet, but what fun it will be when I do!

Chat soon, I'm off to take a dump.

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